As colder weather settles in to stay, the state fire marshal has some safety tips to offer to Marylanders trying to keep warm.

“Fire and life safety is everyone’s responsibility,” State Fire Marshal Brian Geraci said in a statement. “By testing smoke alarms and [carbon monoxide] detectors, keeping exits clear of obstructions, and maintaining fire alarms and fire sprinkler systems, we can all avoid injury or death from the effects of fire.”

Residents should follow the owner’s manual’s recommendations when selecting what type of fuel to use for a portable, unvented fuel-fired heater, such as kerosene heaters. Never use gasoline, the fire marshal cautions. Before firing up the chimney, ensure it is clean and inspected. Portable space heaters should be a least 3 feet from anything combustible, and if you do use an electric space heater, use one that is approved by an authorized testing lab such as UL.

Fireplaces, wood stoves or pellet stoves should be installed properly and serviced by trained technicians, according to state and local codes, to reduce the risk of a catastrophic failure.

If heating equipment fails, do not use kitchen stoves or ovens as a source of heat. They aren’t designed for this, and using them improperly can increase the risk of fire, the fire marshal warns. When cooking, stay by the food as it’s prepared. If a pot or pan catches fire on the stove, cover it with a lid and turn off the burner. Let it cool before removing it. For those using turkey fryers, follow all safety precautions and the manufacturer’s instructions.

Christmas trees should be placed away from heat sources and watered every day during their recommended two-week lifespan while on display, according to the fire marshal. Dried out trees can ignite more easily, so discard yours outdoors when you’re done with it. When selecting a tree, choose one with green needles that don’t come off too easily and one that has a sticky trunk. Do not use lit candles to decorate the tree. Never leave lit candles unattended.

Holiday lights should be turned off before leaving home or going to bed. The fire marshal recommends inspecting holiday lights for frayed or damaged wiring and to check for cracked sockets. Worn light strands should be replaced, and manufacturer’s guidelines should be followed. The fire marshal advises residents to take down lights after the holidays and limit them to 30 days.

In case of a fire, ensure exits are never blocked. If a fire does occur, close the doors behind you as you vacate, call 9-1-1 and don’t go back inside. Tell first responders if anyone is still inside.

Follow Mary Grace Keller on Twitter: @MaryGraceKeller

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