WOODSTOCK – Fire chiefs attending Wednesday night’s Northern Oxford Mutual Aid meeting are attempting to extinguish fires before they begin by getting the word out regarding alternative heating sources.

To get by this winter and avoid the higher than usual price of heating oil, many said they are worried that people will improperly install or use such equipment as electric space heaters, kerosene heaters, cooking appliances and do-it-yourself rigs.

“As a group, with the price of fuel so high, we believe we will have a lot of problem fires this winter,” Woodstock Chief Geff Inman said at the town fire station.

His crew has already responded to two that involved improperly installed wood-stove piping. He also worries that people will run stove pipes out through their windows.

“Our concern is that there will be a greater possibility of fires,” Dixfield Chief Scott Dennett added. “Improper installation and things like that are a major concern to the safety of our citizens. People need to use extreme caution.”

Bethel Chief Mike Jodrey said one problem they constantly see are fires started by improper disposal of ashes.

Inman’s daughter, Teresa Inman, who is a Paris firefighter, agreed with Jodrey, citing as an example a recent fire that burned a house down because a bucket of ashes was left on a porch.

Jodrey said people have put ashes from wood stoves in cardboard and wooden boxes and even plastic Rubbermaid trash barrels stored in kitchen cabinets.

Additionally, with more people turning to wood as a heat source, several chiefs said people should make sure they’ve got both smoke detectors – with batteries installed if not hard-wired – and carbon monoxide detectors.

“People in Maine are very ingenious and they’re not going to be cold this winter, so they’re going to do whatever it takes to stay warm,” Geff Inman said.

People should also check their heat tapes, which don’t last forever, Jodrey said, and ensure that furnaces and chimneys for wood-burning appliances are inspected yearly and cleaned as needed.

Mexico residents can stop at the Fire Department and borrow chimney brushes to clear their chimneys out, NOMA President and Mexico Deputy Chief Richard Jones said.

“We’d rather have them clean their chimneys than rather have us to come and put their fires out,” said Jones, Maine’s Firefighter of the Year.

NOMA also issued the following list of winter safety tips:

• Cooking appliances should not be used to heat a home.

• Space heaters need space. Be sure that combustible items like furniture, clothes, walls and people are at least 3 feet from space heaters.

• Don’t use extension cords for electric space heaters.

• Make sure your choice of heating equipment is permitted by law. Some communities, for example, don’t allow kerosene heaters due to ventilation problems and safety issues because they’re easy to knock over.

• Have oil/gas room heaters, fireplaces, wood stove and inserts, and pellet stoves installed by a qualified and insured professional contractor.

• A properly working heating system is the best method to economically heat your property and prevent possible malfunctions that could lead to fire or frozen pipes.

• Keep thermostats at a minimum 55 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees F. during a hard freeze of 15 degrees or below) to prevent frozen pipes and water damage. Lower temperatures can lead to bursting pipes. Rooms should not be closed off and kitchen-bathroom cabinet doors below sinks should be left open to air-warm the pipes.

• Use candles only while awake and in the room and don’t put them in a window with curtains.

• Ensure that live Christmas trees are fresh and give them plenty of water while inside the home. Test the needles often. If brittle, put the tree outside immediately.

• Keep gas grills outside and at least 10 feet away from any combustibles.

For additional safety tips, Geff Inman said people should visit the Office of the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Web site at www.state.me.us/dps/fmo/FireHeatingSafety.htm.

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