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By Tia Lyons

Staff Writer

With an arctic cold front expected to work its way across the state this weekend, the El Dorado Fire Department is reminding residents to exercise caution as they try to keep warm in frosty temperatures.

Citing information provided by the National Fire Protection Association, Fire Chief Chad Mosby said nearly half of all home heating fires in the U.S. occur in December, January and February, adding that the same trend holds true for El Dorado.

“Right now, we’re right in the middle of that. We’ve had some pretty decent fires lately, both here and around town,” Mosby said.

Though the causes of three recent house fires, one in El Dorado and two in Union County, are still under investigation and have not been attributed to the use of heating equipment, Mosby said the EFD wants to ensure that residents take preventative measures to help stop any more fires from occurring.

He pointed to the weekend cold snap that has been predicted by meteorologists, saying, “People are going to be trying to heat their homes and we want them to be safe in using heating appliances and heat sources, whether they are gas or electric.”

One of the leading causes of home heating fires is failure to clean and maintain heating equipment, primarily chimneys, the fire chief said.

He encouraged residents with chimneys, furnaces and wood-burning stoves to have such equipment cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional at least once a year.

Another major contributor to home heating fires is placing heating equipment too close to flammable materials, Mosby said.

“People will get something like an electric heater and they’ll put it in the bedroom too close to the bed, clothes or curtains,” he said. “You should keep a three-foot buffer around any heating device that you use.”

Mosby said residents should also avoid plugging heating sources into extension cords and multi-socket power strips, explaining that the practices can overload home electrical systems.

“The systems can fail and the extension cords can get hot and ignite. Heating appliances pull more electricity than other appliances in the home,” Mosby said. “If you’re (electrical) breakers trip, it’s an indication that your system is overloaded.”

He said heating appliances should be plugged directly into wall outlets.

Over the years, the EFD has responded to numerous calls of house fires and injuries resulting from residents using cooking appliances, such as the stove, to heat their homes.

Mosby said people often power up stovetop burners or leave on the oven with the door open.

“They’re not rated for sustainable use as a heating source and they tend to fail,” he said.

EFD ambulances have logged hundreds of miles transporting people to the hospital after they have been injured while using a stove as a heating source.

Mosby said patients have received burns from falling on the open door of a heated over or from their clothes catching fire while they’re standing too close to stovetop burners.

“People can get creative when they’re trying to heat their homes and that creativity can be dangerous. Those things were never designed to heat a home,” he reiterated.

When using open-flame heating sources, residents should keep a carbon monoxide detector handy, Mosby said, adding that with natural gas propane heaters, users should pay close attention to the color of the flames.

“You need to make sure the flame is blue. That means it’s burning efficiently. If it’s orange or yellow, that means it’s burning insufficiently, and it can potentially mean there’s carbon monoxide in the air,” Mosby said.

Smoke detectors are also a simple and reliable way to help save lives in a house a fire, and Mosby stressed that every house should be equipped with smoke detectors that are in good working order.

The EFD has smoke detectors that are available to residents who do not have them in the home.

To pick up a smoke detector, stop by the EFD administration office on the second floor of City Hall or by any one of the four fire stations in El Dorado.

For more information, call 870-881-4855.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@eldoradonews.com.

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