Earlier this year, firefighters with Columbus Fire and Rescue responded to a house fire caused by a portable heater left too close to a baby bed.
Luckily no one was hurt, but Anthony Colom, the department’s public relations and education officer, treated the incident like a cautionary tale.
“A lot of the fires during this time of year come from portable heaters,” he said. “We ask everyone to please keep them at least three feet away from anything that’ll burn.”
Those include baskets of laundry, curtains and baby beds. Portable heaters designed to be placed under desks should be turned off at the end of a work day, Colom added. Special caution should be used if the heaters are on carpeted floors.
But Colom said even if a small heater is near something that doesn’t appear flammable, use caution.
“Anything, if you leave heat in front of it long enough, will heat up and will burn,” Colom said.
That, along with using an oven to heat a home or kitchen, are the two most common preventable problems he sees in the winter when people are trying to stay warm.
It’s one of several issues residents have to keep in mind, when freezing temperatures can result in anything from preventable house fires caused by people using unsafe measures to keep warm to flooded homes because pipes froze and burst.
By this time last year, Abby Thompson’s Starkville-based clean-up company had received multiple calls in the area asking her team about frozen or burst pipes.
So far this year, the business — Paul Davis Emergency Service of the Golden Triangle, which Thompson owns with her husband — hasn’t received any.
This year it simply hasn’t stayed cold enough, she said.
Pipes usually freeze and burst when the temperature is below freezing throughout the day, she said. In the coming weeks, temperatures will start in the 20s, but rise to the 40s or 50s as the day goes on. That, Thompson said, prevents water in pipes from reaching freezing temperature.
“That usually happens whenever it’s below freezing for two or three days for the whole day,” she said.
However, Thompson still urges people to check their pipes to make sure they’re insulated to prevent freezes.
“Now, it’s pretty common, but I would check to make sure,” she said. “If you find they’re not, you can go to Lowe’s, get the materials and (do it yourself) or call a professional. Most of the time, if you’re running the heat and the pipes are insulated, you should be fine.”
Other ways to prevent frozen pipes include keeping the thermostat set at 74 or 75 degrees, allowing faucets to drip overnight and opening cabinet doors to allow warm air to circulate, said Jay Josey, who owns a Starkville-based plumbing business.
“Most plumbing issues from the cold can be avoided if you keep the pipes warm,” he said.
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