Prevent Wintertime Burns and Fires - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on December 02, 2015

Prevent Wintertime Burns and Fires

Using fireplaces, space heaters and other alternate heat sources to keep warm in the winter can come with risks for burns, fires or even carbon monoxide poisoning.

Using fireplaces, space heaters and other
alternate heat sources to keep warm
in the winter can come with risks for
burns, fires or even carbon monoxide poisoning.

Around the holidays and throughout the winter we often turn to heat sources like fireplaces and space heaters, and more often use candles and decorative lighting to celebrate the season.

These alternate sources of heat and decorative touches come with some risk for burns, fires or even carbon monoxide poisoning. But they can all be prevented by taking some precautions.


Before using your fireplace for the first time each year, get the chimney swept and inspected by a professional. Soot and residue from creosote, a black, tar-like buildup that forms from wood gases, can accumulate and catch fire in the chimney from embers that fly upward.

To keep your fireplace safe, install a heavy mesh or glass screen. If you have children, you may want to place decorative gate in front of the fireplace to keep children a safe distance from the fire.

Additionally, it’s important to educate your children on fireplace safety They need to understand that playing near a fireplace or getting too close to an open flame or even the screen can result in burns.

Space Heaters

Space heaters are another common heat source that can pose a risk during wintertime. If you’re using an electric space heater, it’s important to inspect it prior to use each year. Make sure the cord for your electric space heater is free from cracks and defects before plugging it in.

Fuel-burning space heaters are a cost-effective way to provide warmth, but you should only use the fuel meant for the heater. And just like fireplaces, it’s important to be cautious around an open flame.

Candles and Lights

While also providing some warmth, candles are often used during the holidays as decorative accents and pleasant scents. But they also pose a fire hazard risk if care isn’t taken.

Before lighting a candle, make sure it’s not near anything remotely flammable. Keep candles away from trees, plants, curtains, and furniture, and out of reach of children. And when you leave a room, blow out all candles – never leave them unattended.

Electric candles can be used as a safe alternative. With any decorative light like candles or strings of lights used to decorate for the holidays, it’s important to inspect them for cracks or exposed wires before plugging them in.

You should also look at the number of electrical outlets you have to work with before decorating to ensure you’re not plugging too many lights into each outlet. Overloading outlets can heat up and cause a fire.

Carbon Monoxide

Finally, before using candles, decorative lights, fireplaces or space heaters, make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home.

Carbon monoxide detectors can alert you to the presence of this poisonous by-product of wood and fuel burning that is odorless, colorless and tasteless.

If your fireplace or fuel-burning space heater isn’t vented properly or leaking, you could get carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include dizziness, fatigue, nausea, irregular breathing, tiredness and headache.

If you experience more than one of these symptoms while at home, but they go away when you leave, you may have carbon monoxide poisoning and should seek medical treatment immediately. You should also make sure you get everyone else out of the house call 911 if you suspect there’s carbon monoxide in your home.

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