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State fire official offers storm safety tips

State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan’s office issued fire safety warnings in light of today’s blizzard.

If the power is out, he reminds people to use care with alternative lighting, heating and cooking methods. He noted that after storms, fire departments often see many fires from woodstoves being overloaded or the improper disposal of ashes and candles, and improper re-fueling of generators.

Embers can remain hot for days, so it is best to put them in a metal container with a lid, far away from the house or other structure.

In addition, officials advise not over-firing woodstoves that are not designed to replace central heating systems. An overtaxed woodstove can easily start a chimney fire due to creosote build-up or minor cracks in the flue.

Heating appliances are the leading cause of carbon monoxide in the home and the risk increases when they are working harder. For more information go to www.mass.gov/keepwarmkeepsafe.

Coan advises using flashlights and battery-operated candles if possible. But if flame candles are used they should be burned inside a one-foot circle free of anything that can burn.

Because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, it is best not to use an oven for heat and not to bring a hibachi or gas grill inside to cook.

In terms of generator use, plugging a generator directly into an outlet, known as “back feeding,” could electrocute utility workers. An electrician should install an appropriate transfer switch first.

Another safety tip is to clear snow from furnace and dryer vents to prevent flue gases from backing up into the home and creating a carbon monoxide hazard.

To prevent pipes from freezing, people should let hot and cold water faucets drip a trickle and open cupboards under sinks to let heat circulate around the pipes.

For more information on safety go to www.mass.gov/dfs click on fire safety topics then Storm Safety.

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