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Cold Weather Fire Safety Reminders

Release Date: November 26, 2018
As cold weather comes our way, the Sussex County Fire Marshal's Office would like to remind you of a few things you can do to keep yourself and your family safe during the cold weather.

Cold Weather Fire Safety Reminders

As cold weather comes our way, the Sussex County Fire Marshal's Office would like to remind you of a few things you can do to keep yourself and your family safe during the cold weather. Some are common; others are probably things you've never thought about! Glance over the following suggestions and see which ones you can implement in your own home or business. See which things you already do, and compare them with what you could do better!

Fireplaces & Wood Stoves

  • Never leave a fire unattended!!!
  • Have your chimney and fireplace inspected annually by a certified chimney sweep. They will check for creosote build-up, cracks, crumbling bricks, and obstructions.
  • Make sure the fireplace opening is covered with a sturdy metal screen or heat tempered glass doors.
  • To prevent fires in your flue, burn dry, well-seasoned wood. Never burn trash.
  • Make sure your wood stove burns hot twice a day for 15-30 minutes to reduce the amount of creosote buildup.
  • Never burn charcoal indoors. It can give off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide when burned.
  • Always be certain the fire in your fireplace is out before going to bed. It is extremely important to NEVER close your damper while there are hot ashes in the fireplace. A closed damper could cause the fire to flare up again and this will cause toxic carbon monoxide to be released into the house.
  • If you are using synthetic logs, always follow the directions on the package. Never break a synthetic log apart to quicken the fire or use more than one log at a time.
  • Place ashes outdoors in a covered metal container at least three feet away from anything that could burn.

Portable Heaters

  • Make sure you have at least 36 inches of empty space between all heaters and everything else, like curtains, furniture, papers, and people.
  • Never leave children unattended in rooms with portable heaters.
  • Be sure the heater has a tip-over shut off function.
  • Never use an extension cord with portable electric heaters. It is a common cause of fires.
  • Check the cord on your electric portable heater. If it is cracked or frayed or gets hot, have the heater serviced.
  • Be sure to clean the dust from all heaters. If left to build up, dust and lint can ignite and cause a fire.
  • Be sure to turn portable heaters off when leaving the house or sleeping.
  • Avoid using portable heaters in the bathroom.


  • Leave furnace work to experts. Have a qualified technician check and clean your furnace every year.
  • Be sure the emergency shut off and automatic controls are in good condition.
  • Always keep trash, papers, paint, etc. away from the furnace area.

Cold Weather Fire Safety

  • If your pipes freeze, do not try to thaw them with a blowtorch or other open flame. The pipe could conduct heat and a fire could be started. Try a hand held dryer, hot water or a UL labeled device for thawing.
  • Never use an oven or a range to heat your home. This is a safety hazard and could cause a build-up of Carbon Monoxide.
  • Be certain that all windows that are used as emergency exits can still be opened in the winter. Practice your escape plan at this time of year.
  • If there is a fire hydrant near your house, help keep it clear of snow and debris. We need to be able to access it in case of a fire.

Smoke Detectors

  • Install a smoke detector on each level of your home.
  • Test smoke detectors once a month.
  • Keep your smoke detectors dust free.
  • Change your smoke detector batteries twice a year. When you change your clock is a good time to change your smoke detector batteries.
  • Never remove working smoke detector batteries to use in toys or for any other reason. Smoke detectors save lives!!

Escape Planning

  • Plan a fire escape plan with your family.
  • Make sure all family members are familiar with the plan.
  • Practice your escape plan at least twice a year. It is good to practice in the winter so you know what to do in cold weather.
  • Every room should have at least 2 ways to escape. An exit without opening a bedroom door is important.
  • Decide on a meeting place outside and away from the house so all family members can gather and be accounted for.
  • If you suspect fire, get out and call the fire department from a neighbor's house.
  • Never re-enter a burning building!

Fire Marshal Car