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Avoid a Space Heater Fire This Winter

It has been a seriously cold winter so far. With the cost of home heating many people are relying on space heaters to keep warm without breaking the bank. While they can save money in the short term, space heaters still pose a threat of fire.

 

Here are safety tips to keep your home or business warm during the winter months and prevent fire damage.

Check for Safety Certification– When purchasing a space heater, look for a safety certification from a well-known source, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

Make Sure It Has Auto Shut Off– Auto shut off features are beneficial to prevent overheating and hazards if the space heater tips over. Many fires occur when a space heater is knocked over.

Make Space– Make sure there is at least 3 feet of space around the space heater and anything that could set fire. Take care to remove flammable materials such as curtains, bedding, and clothing. Aside from cooking fires, space heater fires that start because they are placed too near a flammable surface are the 2nd most common type of house fire.

Keep Them Out of the Bathroom & Kitchen– Space heaters do not typically come with GFCI plugs. To prevent electrocution keep the heating unit away from water. Bathrooms and kitchens are a bad idea for electric space heaters.

No Extension Cords- Plug only the space heater into the wall outlet so as not to overload the circuit. Never use an extension cord with space heaters because the amount of power drawn from these units is too much for a low amp extension cord to handle. It can cause the cord to overheat and spark a fire.

Keep it On the Floor-Keep the space heater on the floor, preferably wood or tile. Low-pile carpet is acceptable but stay away from high-pile and shag carpeting because it can easily catch fire. Heaters kept on shelves or tables can knock over and spark a fire.

Keep Away From Children and Pets- Kids and pets can be burned, electrocuted, or can start a fire by knocking it over or putting things like blankets and toys too close to the heater.

Turn Off When Not in the Room- Make sure to turn off the heating unit when leaving the room or going to bed.

Check the Wires- Check for worn or frayed wires before using the space heater. Don’t use if wires are worn or broken.

Even when we take precautions accidents can happen. If you experience a fire in your home you can always rely on Branch Services to be there to clean it up.

The Dangers of Ice Dams

It’s not even winter yet and it has already snowed twice on Long Island and unfortunately it looks like this winter is going to see a lot of snow. With lots of snow the risk of water damage, and consequentially mold damage, becomes an issue.

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow from draining off the roof. The water that backs up behind the dam can leak into a home and cause water damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and other areas of your home. An ice dam forms when heat collects in the attic and warms the roof, except at the eaves. Then, snow melts on the warm roof and freezes on the cold eaves. Finally, ice accumulates along the eaves, forming a dam. Melted water from the warm roof backs up behind it, flows under the shingles, and into the house—causing water damage.

How to spot an ice dam

Icicles hanging along the eaves of your house may look beautiful, but they spell trouble. That’s because the same conditions that allow icicles to form also lead to ice dams: thick ridges of solid ice that build up along the eaves.

How to Prevent Ice Dams

If you notice ice dams forming after it snows do not try to hack them. Hacking away at ice dams with a hammer, chisel, or shovel is not only going to harm your roof, but could injure you as well. Removing the snow from your roof using a special aluminum snow rake will help. Another fix is to take a box fan into the attic and aim it at the underside of the roof where water is actively leaking in. This targeted dose of cold air will freeze the water in its tracks.

If your home has water or mold damage from ice dams, contact the experts at Branch Services.

Preventing Fires During the Holiday Season

The holiday season is just around the corner, and unfortunately in the fire restoration business that means we’re at our busiest. Residential fires during the holiday season are more frequent, more costly, and more deadly than at any other time of the year. There are a number of factors that add fuel to these tragic statistics; but while the risk is higher during this time of year, there are steps you can take to mitigate the fire risk to you and your family during the holiday season.

To keep your household from becoming a holiday fire statistic, here are some safety tips to follow.

Cooking

No matter your background, it seems that the one constant in holiday celebrations is the fact that it is centered around food. Families get together in the kitchen and cook whole feasts. With so many pots going and so many people in the kitchen it is easy to get distracted and lose track of what we are doing. The best way to prevent kitchen fires is to pay attention and apply a little common sense. Keep all dishes and paper towels away from open flames, set timers to remind you what needs to come off the stove when, and make sure you have a working fire extinguisher close at hand incase a fire does start.

If you’re planning to deep-fry your holiday turkey do it outside on a flat, level surface at least 10 feet from the house.

Candles

Candles are a big part of holiday traditions. Their soft glow illuminates the room and some can fill the air with our favorite holiday scents, but candle-related fires are also associated with the season. To reduce the danger, maintain about a foot of space between the candle and anything that can burn; keep flames away from pets and young children; set candles on sturdy bases or cover them with hurricane globes; never leave flames unattended; b-efore bed, walk through each room to make sure candles are blown out. For atmosphere without worry, consider flameless LED candles.

Christmas Trees

Nothing creates a bigger fire hazard than a 7-foot tall pile of dry kindling. A Christmas tree is almost explosive: it takes less than 30 seconds for a dry tree to engulf a room in flames. To minimize risk, buy a fresh tree with intact needles, get a fresh cut on the trunk, and water it every day. A well-watered tree is almost impossible to ignite. Keep the tree away from heat sources, such as a fireplace or radiator, and out of traffic patterns. If you’re using live garlands and other greenery keep them at least three feet away from heating sources.

No matter how well the tree is watered, it will start to dry out after about four weeks. Artificial trees can also reduce risk as many are created to be fire retardant.

Decorative Lights

While not all of us embrace the Clark Griswold philosophy on holiday displays, even modest illumination can pose a fire hazard. Before you set anything up check last year’s lights for any frayed, cracked wires or broken sockets. For outdoor lights only use lights rated for outdoor use. Don’t plug more than three strands of lights together on a single plug. When hanging lights outside, avoid using nails or staples—which can damage the wiring and increase the risk of a fire. Instead, use UL-rated clips or hangers. Don’t leave lights up year-round, as weather and animals take their toll on the wires making them more likely to catch fire.

Portable Heaters

Baby it’s cold outside! Portable heater fires are common in the colder months. Make sure you use a heater with an automatic shut-off if it gets too hot or tips over. Keep heaters far enough away from anything that can catch fire and do not leave a heater on unattended.

  • Fireplaces

Soot can harden on chimney walls as flammable creosote; so before the fireplace season begins, have your chimney inspected to see if it needs cleaning. Screen the fireplace to prevent embers from popping out onto the floor or carpet, and never use flammable liquids to start a fire in the fireplace. Only burn seasoned wood.

Even when care for safety is taken, fires can happen. If you experience a fire during the holiday season, the fire remediation experts at Branch Services can help you rebuild quickly.