Winter Heating

Keep chimneys and fireplaces clean to avoid fires during winter heating


When winter season is here and more cold days on the way, Acting Oregon State Fire Marshal Randy Simpson reminds Oregonians any time is a good time to have chimneys, fireplaces and woodstoves inspected and cleaned. From 2003 through 2007 in Oregon there were 1,227 fireplace or woodstove-caused fires resulting in four deaths and nine injuries. During this same period there have been 1,368 electrical-caused fires with many related to portable heaters and other home heating equipment.

“Keeping your family warm should never result in tragedy, says Simpson. “If you haven’t already had your chimney, fireplace or woodstove inspected this season, don’t put it off until next year. Also, if you use portable room heaters make sure to give them space and keep them away from combustible materials.”


Oregonians can keep themselves safe by following these additional safety tips:


  • Have chimneys, flues, fireplaces and woodstoves inspected and cleaned each year by a qualified chimney sweep. Ask them to check for creosote deposits, soot build-up and physical damage.
  • Always use a fireplace screen. Make sure the screen is made of sturdy metal or heat-tempered glass to prevent sparks from escaping.
  • Keep a clutter-free environment. Store kindling, fire logs and wood at least three feet from any heat source.
  • Dispose of ashes in a metal container and place the container outdoors at least three feet from anything flammable. Ashes may retain heat for days after they appear out.
  • When using portable heaters make sure they have an automatic tip-over switch and a high temperature limit switch. The tip-over switch turns the heater off if it’s knocked over. The high temperature limit switch regulates the heat, preventing the heater from getting too hot.
  • Give heaters space. Put at least 36 inches of space between the heater and combustibles such as furniture, curtains, papers and people.
  • Check the cord on portable electric heaters. If the cord gets hot or is frayed or cracked, have the heater serviced.
  • Never use extension cords with portable electric heaters. It can overload the circuit and cause a fire.
  • Unplug heaters when not in use and before going to bed.
  • Be aware of electric baseboard or wall heaters. These heaters are thermostatically controlled and turn on without warning when temperatures drop. Keep combustibles at least three feet from these heaters as well.
  • If using a propane-fueled heater, or other appliance make sure it is designed for indoor use. Follow all manufacturer’s instructions and make sure it is properly vented.
  • Do not use any barbecue indoors.
  • If you smell gas, do not operate any switches, appliances or thermostats. A spark from one of these could ignite the gas vapor. Get everyone outside and away from the building. Shut off the gas supply. Call your propane supplier from a neighbor’s phone.
  • Only use kerosene heaters outdoors as they may emit poisonous fumes.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside each sleeping area and inside each bedroom.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly.
  • Vacuum regularly to remove dust and cobwebs.
  • Never disconnect or remove smoke alarm batteries for other uses.
  • Make a home escape plan and practice it with your whole family at least twice a year.

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