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Use caution when firing up furnace

By By Adam Prestridge
Dust not only flies, it also burns.
The Atmore Fire &Rescue Department knows this all too well. In the past week, the department has responded to two fire alarms at Atmore Community Hospital. In each case, dust and lent build up on the hospitals heaters was at fault.
According to fire chief Gerry McGhee, build up on heaters can cause smoke and in some case have started fires if not it is not cleaned before using it during the first cold snap.
"Be sure to clean your heaters because the dust and lent built up over the year could be enough to catch on fire," McGhee said. "Also, clean your heaters and chimneys because a lot of the mortar falls out over the year, birds build nests and soot builds up, which all can catch fire."
McGhee said it is a very simple process to clean your heaters.
"All you have to do is get a vacuum cleaner and suck up all the dust, so it won't smoke up and set off the fire alarm," he said.
AFD assistant chief Mike Staples also gave homeowners a few tips on space heater usage.
"Be sure to use proper ventilation with electrical and space heaters," Staples said. "It's also a good idea to purchase a carbon monoxide detector."
Both McGhee and Staples have nearly seen it all when it comes to house fires involving heaters. A lot of times, homeowners are using alternative means of heating their homes, which have proven unsafe.
"It is not recommended to use your stove or charcoal or gas grills for heating your home," Staples said.
Chimney and woodstove fires are the most common cause of house fires in Atmore pertaining to heating a home, according to McGhee.
Staples added several additional safety tips to follow when heating your home including, not overloading your woodstove; making sure your woodstove is properly installed; not using gas, charcoal liter fluid or any other flammable liquid to ignite a fire; having your chimney cleaned annually prior to winter; not using an extension cord for space heaters and placing all heaters on a flat, level surface.
"Overall, stay warm and be safe," Staples said.
One other safety tip McGhee suggested was checking the batteries in your fire alarms when the time changes this weekend. Clocks should be set back one hour at 2 a.m. this Saturday night.