State Fire Marshal Asks Residents To Practice Fire Safety At Home

Tennessee Fire Marshal and Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Leslie A. Newman wants to remind Tennesseans to keep safe and warm, as winter sets in across the state. But she urges residents to be cautious in the use of alternative heat sources.

“The winter weather means many people will begin to heat their homes with fireplaces, woodstoves and space heaters,” said Newman. “Cold weather months typically have a higher number of accidental fire injuries and deaths, due to the use of these alternative heat sources.”

Following a few safety tips can greatly reduce the risk of fires:

• Make it a “house rule” to test your home’s smoke alarms, before using a space heater or fireplace. All smoke alarms should additionally be tested once a month.
• Space heaters need space. Never put a space heater within three feet of anything combustible – including furniture, bedding or aerosol cans. Make sure your space heater bears the mark of an independent testing lab such as UL or FM. Be sure to buy models with automatic shutoff features. Never use extension cords with space heaters.
• Before you use your fireplace, make sure the chimney has been professionally cleaned to remove the buildup of combustible materials that accumulate inside the flue.
• Be sure any kerosene-fueled heating device is installed with proper ventilation. A portable kerosene heater must be filled only in a well-ventilated area, free of flame and other heat sources, and only when the device has cooled completely. Use only the type of kerosene specified by the manufacturer, and never use gasoline in place of kerosene.
• Never leave a fire, space heater or flame unattended.
• Keep a cut Christmas tree’s moisture content more than 100 percent by keeping it in water. This significantly reduces the chance that its needles will dry out and pose a fire hazard. National Fire Protection Association studies have found that, on average, one of every nine Christmas tree fires causes a fatality, compared with an average of one death per 75 non-confined home fires. Fires involving Christmas trees cause 94 percent of those related fatalities when they spread beyond the rooms where the fires begin.

For further fire safety tips, visit the State Fire Marshal’s office website at
commerce/sfm/index.shtml. The Department of Commerce and Insurance works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee.