Winter safety tips offered

New Orleans — Recent cold snaps have prompted the New Orleans Fire Department to remind residents how to make sure that they are safe when they are trying to keep warm.

A fire that destroyed an Uptown duplex Thursday morning was caused by an unattended space heater, fire investigators determined. The resident speculated at the time that she might have left the heater on when she left for work that morning, and according the fire department, there was a noticeable hole in the floor of the bedroom where the heater had burned through.

The blaze, in the 2500 block of Freret street, was fought by about 43 firefighters. No one was injured.

But the hazards posed by space heaters are not limited to fire, according to the fire department. Unvented space heaters can also cause oxygen depletion and the production of carbon monoxide when fuel is burned incompletely, the department warned.

Citing the arrival of colder weather, the fire department issued winter fire safety tips for space heaters, floor furnaces and fireplaces.

Space heaters should only be used in well-ventilated rooms, the fire department press release said, and they should be placed at a safe distance from curtains, furniture and other combustible items and never used to dry clothing and other items. They should be placed where they can’t be knocked over easily, and children should never be left alone with a space heater that is on.

Electric space heaters should be plugged directly into wall sockets and not extension cords, according to the fire department tip sheet, and people should check the cords to make sure they are not split or frayed.

Heaters should be unplugged when not in use, and nothing should be placed inside the grill on the front of the heater.

Residents also need to take precautions with floor furnaces, the release said. They should be cleaned and vacuumed prior to usage and clear of all coverings. They also should be checked for proper ventilation.

Gas heating sources should put out a clear blue flame. If the flame appears primarily orange or yellowish, it should be checked by a professional.

All gas heating sources need to be properly ventilated; the fire department recommends keeping a window slightly open to circulate fresh air and reduce carbon monoxide buildups in tightly sealed houses.

A stove or oven should never be used to heat a home as it can cause a buildup of deadly carbon monoxide gas.

The fire department also pointed out risks posed by seasonal decorations. Candles should be placed in a non-tip holder before they are lighted and should never be used near a Christmas tree or other decorations and displays that could burn.

Candles need to be kept away from curtains and should never be placed in windows or near exits.

Candles should never be left burning unattended or within the reach of small children.

Only seasoned wood should be used in wood stoves and fireplaces, and residents should make sure the chimney flue is open and that it is inspected by a professional.

A protective screen should be used in front of the fireplace, and ashes should be removed in a metal container.

The tip sheet warned against storing ashes, as they can re-ignite.