NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - It's no coincidence that more home fires occur during the winter months when oil burners, wood burning stoves and fireplaces are working around the clock to provide heat.
However, North Salem building and fire inspector Bruce Thompson said one of the most overlooked preventive measures is maintenance.
"Preventive maintenance of mechanical and electrical systems should be taken more seriously and performed at regular intervals," Thompson said. "Oil burners should be cleaned and checked annually, wood stoves and their chimneys should be cleaned annually, and perhaps more often if or when unseasoned wood is being burned."
Equally important, according to Thompson, is having a code compliant smoke and carbon monoxide detection system and checking the monitoring devices on a regular basis to ensure they are operating properly.
With wood burning stoves and fireplaces, Thompson also reminded residents to never discard ashes in a combustible container and always remove a metal or glass container outside the house in a safe distance from anything combustible.
"Properly store combustibles so they do not become a source of ignition," Thompson warned.
Other tips offered by Thompson are keeping clutter to a minimum, checking the house wiring to catch problems before they are a contributing cause of a fire, such as loose aluminum wiring that generates heat and over time can initiate a fire, only using metal dryer vent piping and keeping it clear of lint build-ups.
Also vitally important in the case of a fire is having a planned escape route for family members.
"Especially with younger children in the house," Thompson said. "All occupants should be thoroughly familiar with exiting options, particularly from upper floors and basements."
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