Safeguarding against fires

Winter can be a hazardous time of the year


Winter can be a time of family fun, good cheer and celebrations, but it can also be a time of weather-related accidents. According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating, storms, candle usage and holiday decorations can all increase the risk of fires this time of year.

The improper usage of space heaters accounts for 40 percent of all heating-related fires.

“You have to use good judgment when it comes to space heaters. They aren’t intended to be continuously run and to heat a whole house,” said Marshalltown Fire Department Deputy Chief Christopher Cross. “We’ve also seen people try to heat a residence using a hot plate or propane-based fuel which also is not a good idea.”

Cross recommends only purchasing space heaters listed with the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) — the largest, independent nonprofit testing lab in the world.

“The UL has tips for usage and intended purpose,” he said.

One of the easiest ways to start a fire with a space heater is by placing it too close to flammable and combustible objects.

“I’ve seen space heaters plugged in to extension cords and power strips, which can overload the circuit and cause a fire,” he said.

While it may be tempting to want to leave a space heater on all day even when you’re not home, Cross advises not leaving these appliances unattended.

Cross said in addition to fires, people also need to safeguard against carbon monoxide poisoning.

“It’s a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that is heavier than air and tends to accumulate,” Cross said. “Using a gas or diesel generator in an enclosed space will lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Keeping your furnace clean too will help reduce carbon monoxide.”

To help make sure the fire department can efficiently put out a blaze, Cross said people who have a fire hydrant on their property need to keep it clean and visible.

“Keep a three-feet wide circle around the hydrant clean of snow, and keep the sidewalks shoveled,” he said. “It makes it easier for us to see the hydrants when moments count.”

Faulty smoke detectors can also lead to danger.

“We recommend checking smoke detectors twice a year. Every time you change your clocks for daylight savings time, change your batteries,” Cross said. “If you need a smoke detector in your home, we have programs that provide free ones and we can install them for you.”

Cross said if people are ever uncertain as to the safety of an appliance, heat source, etc., to not hesitate to reach out to the MFD, by calling (641) 754-5751.


Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or