FORT SMITH, Ark. — As bitterly cold temperatures slam Northwest Arkansas to the River Valley, people are looking for ways to stay warm.
However, firefighters urge everyone to follow a few tips to ensure you can stay warm safely.
"With the winter weather comes a lot of additional fire safety issues," explains Ethan Millard, Fort Smith Fire Department Battalion Chief, and Fire Marshal.
He says anyone trying to stay warm indoors should never use an appliance for a purpose it is not designed for. As an example, do not use your oven or stove as a heating source.
Doing so can increase the risk of a fire that can quickly spread.
A quick way to heat a small space is to use a space heater. However, even these gadgets can pose a fire hazard if not used properly.
"We highly recommend that you plug it [space heater] directly into the receptacle, don't use extension cords," says Millard. "You don't want to overload those with a space heater. You want to keep all combustible materials, anything that can catch on fire, at least three feet away from that space heater."
Investing in a space heater with temperature control and timer function are easy ways to reduce having prolonged exposure to heat on surfaces that could catch on fire. Millard also says you should never sleep with a space heater on.
In addition to ways to reduce a potential fire, Millard recommends that every home should have a smoke detector in multiple locations on every floor of the home. Having a smoke detector inside each bedroom and common area is the best way to alert to a hazard.
Other than fires, there is a silent risk everyone should be aware of.
"Carbon monoxide exposure is something that we see an awful lot more now," said Medical Director, Dr. Hugh Jackson with the Mercy Emergency Department.
Dr. Jackson warns of using certain heating devices that operate on gas or generators as culprits to the poisonous, odorless gas.
He says having carbon monoxide detectors in your home is essential and they are readily available.
"Fire departments can certainly check levels and other resources that we might need to be aware of ourselves and for those of our family or friends that might be at risk," said Dr. Jackson.
Another way to efficiently heat your entire home is by using your fireplace. However, Millard urges everyone who uses a wood-burning fireplace to have their chimney inspected and cleaned annually. Not doing so can lead to fires starting inside the chimney due to the build-up of soot.
During the cold weather having extra blankets and warm layers are a quick, easy way to keep warm and do so safely. Using warming devices properly and incorrectly ventilated areas can mean the difference between staying warm and having the fire department as unexpected guests.
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