(BRANDON HANSEN/Chewelah Independent)
Weather helps make area less prone to fires, but winter brings new fire hazards to the home…
Friday the 13th is usually a day of fear, thanks to a bevy of 1980s horror movies with a serial killer wearing a hockey mask. It was a day of relief, however, for Stevens County as the southern region saw its fire danger lowered from Very High to Moderate by the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
While not out of the woods, it is a welcome downgrade as restrictions on recreational fires has been lifted. There is still a ban on debris burning and permit burning, as things could dry out again.
“If we have a week of dry and moderate temps (70-80) with some light winds, we could see some fast fueled fires,” Stevens County Fire District 1 Chief Mike Bucy said. “Ground cover is pretty easily dried out and can speed fire progression.”
The number of fire starts is usually pretty low when there is moderate fire danger. Still, if a fire does start in an open, dry grassland, it can burn and spread quickly on windy days. Most wood fires will spread slowly to moderately. Average fire intensity will be moderate except in heavy concentrations of fuel, which may burn hot. Fires are still not likely to become serious and are often easy to control. People are still asked to be vigilant and smart when it comes to fire danger.
HEATING IN THE HOME
Fall brings another fire threat, one that comes from the home. With people beginning to start fires again in their home fireplaces, issues can cause a blaze in a structure.
“Falls is the time for home heating to perk up, and chimney fires become the greatest threat,” Bucy said. “It is best to clean them or flues from the previous year ‘s build-up. Also check for animals that may have taken up residence in them as well.”
Other tips for winter heating preparation include contacting a professional chimney sweep to clean out any creosote and soot that might be built up. Creosote in your chimney actually can catch fire from sparks flying upward. Also inspect the damper to ensure that it opens and closes smoothly. Check the mortar around any bricks in the chimney or surround for cracks. These can cause dangerous fires if not fixed.
Make sure all flammable material you have around your fireplace or stove is removed as well, and that the door is secure and can shut properly. If burning firewood, a log can roll towards the door and if not secure can be knocked open, sending a burning log into your living room.
Along with fireplace issues, fall is also a good time to check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
“CO detectors should be mounted high, not low,” Bucy said.
WINTER CAR SAFETY
It’s also a good time for some car maintenance, getting tune-ups and tires so your vehicle runs well in the winter and can stay on the road. Make sure you have a winter kit in the car in case you get stranded in your vehicle.
Make sure your winter kit has a flashlight, batteries, blanket, snacks, water, winter clothes, gloves, boots, first-aid kit, tire chains, ice scraper/snowbrush, jumper cables and road flares.