Weather cools down, home fires tend to heat up

By Gene Petriello - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - With another cold night on tap, many of you will likely turn on your heater, or use a space heater to keep warm.

But a warning today. The firefighters in Richmond, and all across the area, are prepared for what could be a pretty busy cold weather season. They expect to see a big increase in the number of fire calls now and in the coming months. In fact, those calls started very early this morning in Richmond.

Joanie Salib woke up early on this cool morning to put on some coffee and turn on the heat.

And just 10 minutes later, we found her outside, with her two grandchildren and a fire truck in front of her home.

"All of the sudden, the smoke detectors went off and the house started smelling," says Salib. "It was scary because I thought the attic was one fire."

Luckily, there was no fire there. But we found out the reason these firefighters came here, will become a common call as the weather cools down.

"As people turn on their heating units for the first time, they are going to burn dust off on the coils," says Lt. Shawn Jones with the Richmond Fire Department.

That creates the smell that Joanie and her family dealt with this morning. "The smell was so bad we couldn't take it."

We found out from the family that the home is only about a year old and Joanie says they just had a professional crew come out here and clean out the furnace and ducts six months ago.

Lt. Shawn Jones with the fire department puts it all into perspective. "When we clean our homes weekly, we know how much dust accumulates in a week time. Multiply that by the amount on the heating system that collects of four, five or six months."

During the winter, heating is the second leading cause of house fires, deaths and injuries. In the colder months, space heaters will become a common item in some homes. The general rule is to keep them at least three feet away from everything.

Meanwhile back at Joanie's home, they have called out a crew to clean the ducts. Also, she had some advice, "everyone should get their filters and furnaces checked."

The fire department recommends everyone gets their furnaces and ducts professionally cleaned.

Keep in mind that most fires break out between midnight and 8 a.m., when most people are sleeping.

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