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Illinois State Fire Marshall Stresses Home Heating Safety

As temperatures remain low, Illinois residents are turning up their thermostats to keep warm, but with this comes an increased risk of home heating fires and carbon monoxide incidents. The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal is advising residents to take precautions to ensure their safety during the chilly months.


The OSFM speaks on the importance of having furnaces checked, changing furnace filters regularly, and ensuring that carbon monoxide and smoke alarms are in proper working order. Unlike smoke, carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas, making it detectable only by special devices and CO alarms.


Statistics from the National Fire Protection Association reveal that heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths, with an estimated average of 44,210 heating equipment-related fires annually from 2016 to 2020. These fires resulted in an average of 480 civilian deaths per year. Space heaters, in particular, accounted for a significant portion of these incidents, causing one-third of fires and the majority of deaths and injuries.


Illinois State Fire Marshal James A. Rivera stresses the need of regular testing of smoke and CO alarms, noting that quick evacuation is crucial as modern home contents can ignite rapidly, leaving little time to escape.


In 2023, Illinois fire departments responded to 21,165 calls about carbon monoxide, with confirmed leaks at 8,823 locations. Symptoms of CO poisoning, such as headache, fatigue, nausea, and dizziness, can mimic the flu, while signs of CO presence include condensation on walls, sluggish pets, and odors from malfunctioning appliances.


If CO poisoning is suspected, or if a CO alarm sounds, residents are advised to evacuate immediately, opening windows if possible, and calling 9-1-1 from a safe location outside the home.


Residents are reminded to test smoke and CO alarms monthly, replace them according to manufacturer instructions, and never use ovens or ranges to heat homes.


By following these precautions, Illinois residents can reduce the risk of home heating incidents and safeguard their families during the winter months.

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