This week, Kenai Peninsula residents experienced a little blast of winter — temperatures below zero, some snow, a day of heavy wind — for the first time in what feels like a couple of years, leading many to turn up the thermostat, stoke up the woodstove or plug in a space heater to ward off the chill.
Just as the weather has provided a reminder of what winter actually feels like, now is a good time for a reminder to be safe when keeping your home warm and cozy.
For starters, make sure your home has working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. They should be tested regularly, and if you didn’t change the batteries last month when we changed our clocks, make sure to do it now. The state fire marshal’s office recommends that smoke alarms be installed on each level of your home, and in each sleeping area. Carbon monoxide alarms should be placed on each level as well.
According to the fire marshal’s office, home heating issues are the leading cause of structure fires in Alaska. If you use a fireplace or woodstove on a regular basis, make sure your chimney is clean. Local fire departments loan out brushes to help with that task.
If you use a space heater, make sure it has some space — at least 3 feet on all sides and above it.
The holiday season is upon us, and for many, burning a candle helps to make the season bright. Never leave a burning candle unattended; be sure to extinguish all candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Place candles in a sturdy candle holder and keep them in a safe area where they’re not going to be knocked over. When the candle burns down to within 2 inches of the holder, it’s time to put it out.
A live Christmas tree also is part of holiday celebration for many peninsula residents, but a dried-out spruce or pine can go up like a torch. According to the American Christmas Tree Association, Christmas trees nationwide result in $13 million in property damage each year. Some tips from the ACTA website:
— Always place your tree away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights, and keep the tree base filled with water to avoid a dry out.
— Make sure all your indoor and outdoor Christmas lights have been tested in a lab by the UL or ETL/ITSNA for safety, and throw out any damaged lights.
— Any lights you use outdoors must be labeled suitable for exterior placement, and be sure to plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter protected receptacle.
— Keep all your holiday candles away from your Christmas tree, surrounding furniture and décor.
— Bedtime means lights off! Don’t forget to turn your Christmas tree lights off each night.
We hope everyone gets out and enjoys the winter weather — from our experience over the past couple of years, we’re not sure how long it might last. But take a few minutes to make sure your warm and cozy home is a safe one, too.