Winter heating safety reminders

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In the winter months, especially with the recent extreme cold temperatures, the cost to heat your home with oil, gas or electricity can often be hard on a household budget. Many homes in the Village have wood burning fireplaces, and although this may not be enough to heat an entire house, it can help keep a room or two warm, reducing heating costs. Residents may also use space heaters to keep warm. Either option can help reduce strain on your furnace or heat pump, but all heating options need to be used carefully to avoid mistakes that could lead to house fires.

Here are some safety tips to keep in mind this winter.


  • Have a certified chimney sweep inspect and clean your fireplace and chimney.
  • Don’t use excessive amounts of paper or flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Burn seasoned hard wood (not pine) in the fireplace.
  • Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace.
  • Never leave a fire unattended. Be sure to let the fire burn out before closing the damper/flue.
  • Do not remove ashes from a fireplace immediately. Allow ashes to cool for several days and then place in a metal container outside the home and away from the house, wetting them down if possible. Never use a vacuum to pick up ashes.
  • Candles are nice for ambiance, or even light in the event of a power outage. However, never leave lit candles or other open flames unattended. Battery-operated candles amy be a better alternative for decoration or ambient light.

Space Heaters

  • Make sure your heater works properly and has an emergency shut off in the event it is tipped over.
  • Plug heaters directly into a wall outlet, and make sure they are not near flammable items. Using an extension cord turns the heater into a tripping hazard.
  • Place on a hard, level, flat floor surface, not on a rug or carpet.
  • Turn heaters off when you are not in the room with them.

Home Furnace

  • Have your furnace inspected regularly and repaired by a qualified specialist.
  • Make sure all controls and emergency shut offs work properly.
  • Keep trash and other debris away from the heating system.

Smoke Alarms/Carbon Monoxide Detectors

To make sure you can be prepared for any emergency, checking your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be on your winter preparation checklist. Make sure there is a working smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector on every level of your house; some models offer both features in one unit.

Maryland has joined many other states in requiring battery-only smoke alarms be replaced with a 10-year, long-life battery smoke alarm. Smoke alarms should be retired once they are 10 years old or if they stop functioning before that. Be sure to test your smoke alarms monthly.

Gaithersburg-Washington Grove Volunteer Fire Department offers free home safety inspections and can replace your smoke detectors for free. To schedule a home visit to inspect and replace your old smoke detectors, visit

For more information regarding fire safety, call the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service at 240-777-2400 or visit