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Remember fire safety as temperatures take a dive

Tina Bridenstine
The Shawnee News-Star
Shawnee Fire Department

With winter temperatures taking a dip into the teens and 20s this week, area residents are likely to huddle inside and try to keep warm. However, Shawnee Fire Marshal David Anderson offers reminders to be aware of fire safety.

Though Anderson said this winter has been fairly calm so far when it comes to house fire calls, he had several tips for preventing problems in the future.

For those who use space heaters, he advised them to keep the heaters at least 3 feet away from anything flammable, including magazines, clothing and chairs.

“A lot of times in winter, people will wrap up in a blanket in a chair and pull the space heater closer to them,” Anderson said, adding that getting the heater too close presents a fire hazard.

When it comes to fireplaces, he recommended keeping up with normal maintenance and making sure the fireplace is cleaned out and venting properly, even if that means calling in a professional. Just like with space heaters, he said it's important not to let anything flammable get too close. He also pointed out that only firewood should be burned in fireplaces, not trash.

As for fireplaces you can buy at a hardware store to add to a house, Anderson said the more modern ones have safety features built into them to cause them to shut off if they get tipped over or overheat.

“They're usually a little safer,” he said. “But if you're using an electric one, don't overload extensions cords.”

Anderson said extension cords are one of the common problems they see in house fires. When extension cords are overloaded by appliances and other devices, they can overheat and catch fire. To prevent electrical cord fires, he recommended using only extension cords with a fuse that can be thrown, such as surge protectors with built-in switches.

“The plug strip is what we recommend. That way, if it does get overloaded it cuts itself off, so it won't continue to provide electricity to whatever appliance caused it to overload,” he said.

He also cautioned against using a kitchen stove as a way to provide heat, saying that it is not safe or effective to do so.

Anderson also urged everyone to have a working smoke detector in the home, as well as a carbon monoxide detector. Smoke detectors should have the batteries checked and changed on a regular basis.

And those without smoke detectors, he said, can call the Shawnee Fire Department. The Red Cross — and sometimes hardware stores and other organizations — donates fire detectors for those in need of them, though Anderson said they haven't been doing as many installations as usual with the ongoing pandemic.

To contact the Shawnee Fire Department about having a smoke detector checked or installed, or to inquire about making a donation for smoke detectors, call (405) 878-1671.

Winter temperatures are expected to remain below freezing for at least the next week.

Accuweather predicts a high of 30 and a low of 13 for Thursday, a high of 24 and a low of 11 for Friday, a high of 21 and a low of 2 for Saturday, a high of 16 and a low of 8 for Sunday, a high of 21 and a low of 6 for Monday, a high of 31 and a low of 4 for Tuesday, and a high of 30 and a low of 13 for Wednesday. Next Thursday is the first day forecast to be above freezing, with a high of 38.

Tina Bridenstine is a reporter for The Shawnee News-Star. She can be reached at tina.bridenstine@news-star.com.