GAINESVILLE - Dropping temperatures in Hall County mean residents are bundling up. Unfortunately, cold weather also means more residential fires.
Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle said not everyone has central heating, nor is everyone interested in turning it on just yet. He said there are safe ways to alternatively heat a residence, but winter fires happen when those sources are used improperly.
Cagle is urging residents to ensure their smoke detectors are working properly.
"Always have that working smoke alarm in each bedroom and out in the hallways," he said. "Make sure it has a fresh battery in it. The time just changed and we changed our clocks, so we should have just changed the battery in our smoke alarm."
An emergency plan for the household is another important detail.
"Our home is the place that we feel the most comfortable, we spend the most time so we need to know how to get out of our home in case that smoke alarm does go off," Cagle said. He likened it to the emergency drills done with Hall County students.
Cagle also said space heaters and fire places were equally dangerous when used improperly. He encourages fireplace users to get their chimneys swept before use and to only burn seasoned hardwoods in the fireplace. He also said not to burn trash, cardboard or flammable items or liquids.
Space heaters, he said, need their space.
"At least three feet around that heater, there should be no combustibles," he said. "No couches, no chairs, no tables, certainly no beds, or bedding or drapes, curtains, things of that nature." He also said not plug anything into the same wall socket as a heater, nor to plug the heater into an extension cord.
Other tips include not using a stove or range to heat your home; never allowing your car run in the garage, even with the garage door open; purchasing a space heater that shuts off if it tips over; and letting warm fireplace ashes soak in a metal bowl outside of your home after your fire has ended.
Cagle's warnings came just hours before a mobile home was destroyed by fire on Coker Road in east Hall County. (See separate story.)