Fire hazards abound during wintertime |

Fire hazards abound during wintertime

Staff Reports
A metal can with a tight-fitting lid is an approved means to store woodstove or fireplace ashes until they're cool enough for disposal.
Kurt Hildebrand |

When people think of winter hazards, slick mountain roads, lost skiers or avalanches come to mind. However, many winter hazards can be found inside homes or backyards, according to East Fork Fire District officials.

District firefighters have seen the gamut of winter incidents related to cold temperatures in Western Nevada.

They’ve been fielding questions regarding portable heaters, disposal of fire place ashes, frozen pipes, carbon monoxide alarms, candles, so Fire Marshal Steve Eisele and Fire Investigator Terry Taylor compiled a list of general winter safety tips.

Wood stoves and fireplaces

District firefighters have responded to serious fires related to the improper disposal of leftover ashes.

Ashes, even after several days, can hold hot embers and enough heat to ignite and start a fire if not handled and disposed properly.

Care should be used in the storage and disposal of all ashes by following these simple steps:

■ All ashes removed from a wood-burning appliance shall be stored in an approved metal container with a tight-fitting lid.

■ Store ashes in the metal container outside the structure and away from any combustible materials. Ashes should not be located next to piles of firewood, on or under a wooden deck, covered carport or porch.

■ Ashes should remain in the metal container for at least a week or until the heating appliance requires additional cleaning. Ashes should be checked prior to removing from the container to make sure they are not hot. Add water to the ashes and mixing to cool hot materials.

■ Ashes should not be directly disposed of into a garbage can. Ashes, once cooled and checked, may then be disposed of into your normal trash receptacle and taken to the curb.

■ Never dispose of ashes directly into the yard or outdoor areas. Uncovered ash piles can easily spread to combustible yard waste, vegetation or structures with the assistance of the wind.

Portable heaters

Use of portable heaters becomes widespread during the colder winter months. The National Fire Protection Association reports that heating is the second leading cause of U.S. home fires, with half of all heating fires occurring in December, January and February. Space heaters, portable or stationary, account for one-third of home heating fires and four out of five home heating fire deaths, annually.

The district recommends the following steps in an effort to prevent most heating-related fires:

■ Keep all combustible materials a minimum of 3 feet away from all heating equipment such as furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.

■ Always use the right kind of fuel for fuel burning appliances. Never burn green, unseasoned or treated wood in a wood-burning appliance.

■ Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or building.

■ Maintain a 3-foot kid and animal free zone around heating appliance.

■ Have qualified professionals install stationary equipment and repair all equipment, stationary or portable.

■ Annual inspections and cleaning of equipment and chimneys shall be conducted by a certified professional.

■ Always read manufactures operating instructions. Only use all appliances, stationary or portable, as recommended by manufacturer.

■ On the exterior of the building, all heating and cooking appliances shall be located away from combustible walls or structures and shall not be located under eaves or low roof coverings.

Frozen pipes

Heat must be maintained in structures to prevent frozen water pipes. The district, with the cold weather, has been responding to several water leaks and breaks related to frozen water pipes, exterior irrigation to interior lines in all types of commercial and residential buildings.

The district recommends the following steps in preventing frozen pipes:

■ Drain all exterior water lines, hoses and hose bibs where possible.

■ Cover exterior hose bibs, faucets and water supplies with approved insulation.

■ Inspect pipes in areas that are unheated. Insulate pipes if exposed to freezing temperatures.

■ Close all foundation vents located around perimeter of structure. Closing of vents cuts off cold air from where pipes are located.

■ Keep garage door closed when not in use to protect water lines and heaters.

■ Use approved heat tape on exposed pipes.

■ Open interior doors to allow movement of heat within the structure. Open cabinet doors to sinks and vanities where located on outside walls of a building so heat reaches pipes and wall space.

■ Always maintain heat at 55 degrees. If out of town, have a neighbor check on the house periodically to ensure temperature is maintained and pipes are not freezing.

■ Identify the main water shut off location, tools required to shut off valve and who is the responsible water purveyor for your system. If on a residential well, identify where to shut off the water and power to well pump.

■ If you suspect a frozen pipe use caution to thaw. Never use an open flame to thaw pipes. The use of a warm air hair dryer is one of the safest methods.

■ Call a certified and licensed plumber if the problem is beyond your ability.

carbon monoxide

In a home, one or several appliances may be potential sources of carbon monoxide.

Carbon Monoxide detectors are designed to detect the presence of carbon monoxide and to notify occupants. Detectors are very similar to smoke alarms. To install and maintain, read manufactures instructions completely as they do not all mount on the ceiling like the common smoke detector. If a carbon monoxide detector activates, call 9-1-1 and responsible fuel provider to ensure the structure is safe.

It is essential that all fuel-burning appliances be maintained in good working order.

In addition to carbon monoxide detectors every home or living unit shall be provided with approved smoke detectors capable of alerting everyone inside a home. Smoke detectors should be placed in every bedroom and outside each sleeping area on every level of a home. Change batteries twice a year.


Candles may be pretty, but they are an open flame device that should be used with caution.

■ Candles should never be left burning in an unoccupied room, or when you’re sleeping.

■ Keep candles a minimum of 12 inches from combustible materials.

■ Use approved candle holders that are sturdy and won’t tip over.

■ Don’t burn candle all the way down. Extinguish the candle before it gets to the bottom of the holder or container.

■ Do not use candles in homes or areas where medical oxygen is used.

■ Keep candles away from pets and kids.

■ Have flashlights and battery-powered lighting available for power outages. Don’t use candles, if possible.

Fire Extinguishers

Portable fire extinguishers are an important tool for every home. The district recommends that each household have a minimum of one portable fire extinguisher.

It is important that fire extinguishers are easily available and near an exit. Fire extinguishers come in many different sizes. A 5-pound multi-purpose extinguisher is the district’s recommendation for each home. A multi-purpose extinguisher is designed and approved to use on fires containing wood, paper, common combustibles, burning flammable liquids (oil, gasoline) and any type of electrical appliance.

The district recommends using the PASS system for operating an extinguisher. Pull the safety pin, Aim the extinguisher or nozzle, Squeeze the handle, and Sweep the fire with the powered agent side to side. Keep your back to an exit; avoid heavy smoke, close doors to isolate fire spread. No matter the fire size or location, call the fire department immediately to assist in extinguishing or investigate the fire cause.


With the holiday season coming to a close, officials encourage everyone to remove live Christmas trees and dispose of them properly. Douglas County Parks and Recreation Department will be collecting live Christmas trees for recycling along Waterloo Lane through Jan. 22.

For any questions or additional information, contact Eisele at 775-782-9040.