NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Hampton Roads’ wintry weather threat is subdued for the time being, but the plunging temperatures mean people are looking to stay warm.
That can be dangerous if you’re not careful. According to FEMA, home fires occur most often in winter.
10 On Your Side talked with the Newport News Fire Department about the best ways to stay safe during the cold season.
Lt. Travis Veach said one of the most common threats for a home fire is a space heater placed too close to flammable items. He said those heaters should have a three-foot distance from anything that can catch fire.
“Mattresses will burn very quickly, very hot and they produce a lot of smoke — thick smoke that will essentially choke a person out,” he said.
Veach said it’s risky to use appliances, such as an oven or stove, as a heater when it’s not designed for that purpose.
That’s because of the threat of carbon monoxide leaking into the home. Heaters should be inspected for this same reason.
“If the heating element is malfunctioning, it’s not properly heating the gas to the appropriate temperature, you could have incomplete combustion which leads to [carbon monoxide],” Veach said.
Firefighters say, when in doubt, hire a professional to inspect heaters and fireplaces.
“I know some people are worried about the cost, but ultimately it’s worth it if it’s going to save your life,” Veach said.
NNFD said now is also a good time to make sure residents’ smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly.
Those who need a smoke alarm installed, tested or replaced can call the Free Smoke Alarm Hotline at 757-247-8888 and leave their contact information. Fire department personnel cannot assist in changing or installing hard-wired smoke alarms.