Red Cross and Columbia Gas offer safety tips to heat homes during winter

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As the cold weather continues to settle in, many local residents look for additional and alternative ways to warm their homes, sometimes utilizing unsafe heating sources. Improper use of these devices, including space heaters, fireplaces or wood and coal stoves, is the leading cause of winter fires.

The American Red Cross and Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania are urging families to heat their homes safely this winter season.

Last year, the York-Adams Red Cross responded to approximately 100 local disasters, many of these home fires. A good number of those fires resulted from the use of space heaters, camp stoves, candles and charcoal grills, among other devices, as heat sources.

“As we enter the coldest time of the year, it is important for individuals to evaluate the ways they are planning to keep their families warm this winter season,” stated Leslie Brengle, emergency response specialist with the local Red Cross. “We understand families heat their homes in different ways, and we encourage everyone to do so safely to prevent a home fire.”

Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania reminds customers that it’s not too late to take steps today to secure payment assistance, if necessary, and to ensure their heating equipment works properly.

“At the first sign of trouble paying their natural gas bill, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania encourages customers to call and find out more about our assistance programs,” said Mark Kempic, president of Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania.  “We want all of our customers to stay safe and warm in their homes, and we offer many payment options to customers with limited or low income, customers who are facing special circumstances or those who need to re-establish their gas service.”

If you choose an alternative heating source during cold weather, take the following precautions to avoid fire hazards:

·        Inspect fireplaces and wood stoves – Have your chimney connections and flues inspected and cleaned by a professional before every heating season.  Use a sturdy screen when burning fires.  Only burn wood – never paper or pine boughs.  Never leave the fire unattended. Finally, do not hang holiday decorations on your fireplace if you plan to use it as a heat source.

·        Check smoke detectors – Install new batteries in your smoke detectors and insure that the detectors are working properly.

·        Do not overuse electrical outlets – Make sure not to overload your electrical outlets with heating sources, appliances, or holiday decorations.  Be careful of extension cords that can present hazardous walkways.

·        Use caution with portable space heaters – Place space heaters at least three feet away from anything combustible, including wallpaper, bedding and clothing.  Do not leave children or pets unattended near space heaters, as they could get burned.  Never leave space heaters on when you leave the room or go to bed.  Do not dry wet mittens or other clothing over space heaters, because it is a fire hazard. Look for a model that shuts off automatically if it is tipped over.

·        Use generators carefully – Always operate portable generators outside – never inside, including in the basement or garage.  Do not hook up a generator directly to your home’s wiring.  Instead, it is safer to connect the equipment directly to the outlets on the generator.

·        Never use the stove or oven to heat your home.

·        Create a disaster supplies kit – Place lifesaving items in both your home and vehicle and create a family plan for fire emergencies.

For more information on what you can do to keep you and your loved ones safe this winter season, visit the “Prevent Home Fires” section at


The information above provided by the American Red Cross and Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania.

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