Shrewsbury fire chief issues cold weather safety warning


Shrewsbury – Fire officials issued a fire safety warning as the area enters the first period of extremely cold weather this winter.

“Sub-freezing temperatures dip this week will tax our heating and electrical systems as we try to stay warm, so a little caution can help you make you it safely through the extreme weather,” said Shrewsbury Fire Chief James Vuona.

Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working

“One of the simplest steps for safety you can take is to make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working. They will give you the earliest possible warning that something is wrong so you can escape safely,” Vuona said.

“Keep thermostats set at the lowest comfortable temperature as furnaces may struggle to keep the house warm; wear warm clothes and put an extra blanket on the bed,” he added. “If you run out of oil, or lose power, consider going to the home of a friend or relative who has heat rather than relying on alternative heating sources.”

Proper use of space heaters

“Cold snaps like this is when we tend to see space heater fires and one of every four space heater fires in the past five years has caused a fire injury,” he said. “Space heaters need space, so use them in a three-foot circle of safety, free of anything that can catch fire.”

He added, “Space heaters are not designed to replace your central heating system, they are only designed to provide a little extra heat on a temporary basis. So be sure to turn them off when you leave room or go to bed at night.”

It is best to plug space heaters and other heat-generating appliances directly into the outlet. Overloaded extension cords cause many space heater fires. If you must use an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the same wattage as the appliance and use only one.

Wood, coal and pellet stoves

“Already this winter heating season, Massachusetts has seen numerous serious fires from the improper disposal of ashes from fireplaces, wood and pellet stoves,” said Vuona. “A single ember can remain hot for days, so put ashes in a metal container with a lid away from the house, the garage, the deck.”

Several recent fires started with ashes put into plastic bags, cardboard boxes, and plastic trash bins, in the garage, or under the deck.

“Don’t over-fire your woodstove. An overtaxed woodstove can easily start a chimney fire taking advantage of creosote build-up or minor cracks in the flue or causing a breakdown in the chimney liner,” Vuona said.

Heating appliances are the leading cause of carbon monoxide in the home and the risk increases when they are working harder.

Preventive maintenance

It’s never too late to have a licensed professional clean and inspect your furnace or chimney. A professional can clean the chimney of creosote, and check for cracked or broken mortar. An efficiently running furnace is cheaper to run. Heating equipment is the leading cause of carbon monoxide in the home.

Preventing freezing pipes

Let water drip a trickle to prevent pipes from freezing and open cupboards under sinks to let heat circulate around the pipes.

For more information on winter heating safety go to

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