Check your smoke detectors.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 20:00
A recent string of house fires in the area — three in 19 days — means this is as good a time as any to remind folks that fire safety is a very big deal this time of year.

A recent string of house fires in the area — three in 19 days — means this is as good a time as any to remind folks that fire safety is a very big deal this time of year.

Because of people’s increased reliance wood stoves and alternative heating sources, the wintertime (especially when it’s this chilly) is notorious for spawning the kinds of fires that damaged two Eagle River homes and destroyed another in Peters Creek.

Everyone involved in those blazes was relatively lucky. Nobody was home at a fire on Eagle River Road on Jan. 12, while on the other side of the Eagle River Valley, one man escaped a Jan. 24 blaze after hearing the fire crackling in his attic.

Smoke detectors, however, were cited as a major reason five people were able to escape an early-morning fire in Peters Creek with their lives on Jan. 5.

Firefighters say there’s no single better way to protect your family from fire than to have working smoke detectors — and lots of ‘em. The Peters Creek fire actually occurred at the home of a Chugiak Volunteer Fire Department member, who said he regularly checked the life-saving devices in his home before the fire.

Making sure your smoke detectors is easy. They come equipped with a test button, which will tell you if the battery has a charge. A burning stick of incense can also be used to make sure the devices are in working order. And, just to be safe, it’s not a bad idea to go ahead and change the batteries once a year — as they say, whether they need it or not.

Additionally, make sure you’ve got working carbon monoxide detectors. CO is an odorless gas that can be deadly. If you experience unexplained nausea, headache, fatigue, dizziness or shortness of breath, exit your home immediately.

A major cause of fires this time of year is overheating chimneys and vent pipes. If you’re not sure how to clean yours, hire a professional to do it. The Anchorage Fire Department recommends having your chimney swept once a month if you’re burning wood on a regular basis. A good, clean chimney is essential if you use a wood stove, especially with as many logs as one goes through when it’s below zero out there.

Here’s some more tips from the AFD on home heating in the winter:

— Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional.

— Keep combustibles at least 3 feet from heating equipment.

— Supervise children when a fireplace, fire pit, or other space heater is being used.

— Make sure all heating equipment has a label from a recognized testing laboratory.

— Do not use extension cords for portable electric space heaters.

— Use only approved fuel for each type of heater.

— Do not use cooking appliances to heat home.

Finally, make sure you and your children know what to do in the event of a fire. Discuss how to quickly exit your home, and make a plan for where to meet up if a fire does occur. A little bit of planning now could make a big difference down the road.

For more information on fire safety, visit

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