Heat up your home safely this winter

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — The dropping temperatures means increased customer service at Ray Johnson’s Fireplace Shop in Virginia Beach.

“When it gets cold, especially for the first time, our phone rings off the hook,” said Ray Johnson, Jr., who has worked at the shop for more than 30 years.

Johnson says the store first started selling wood stoves in 1976 and has progressed to gas stoves. He says they’re more reliable than traditional fireplaces.

“It could be big pieces of wood, small pieces of wood, catching someone throwing some parts of a Christmas tree and have a fire that’s uncontrollable. With a gas fire, it’s set and so it takes away those variables out of the equation,” Johnson said.

Johnson says it’s important for gas fireplace owners to check their user manuals to make sure they run properly, including when they should be inspected. The same goes for traditional fireplaces.

“When the heaters and fireplaces come on, we see an increase in fire activity,” said Chesapeake Fire Captain Scott Saunders.

Saunders says chimneys should be cleared by a certified contractor before lighting a fire.

“If the flue is cracked or the fire is hot enough to crack, then it can spread into the walls of the home,” Saunders said.

He recommends placing a screen in front of the fireplace and using better fuel sources for the fire, such as seasoned, dry wood, to prevent build up

Saunders says if you’re using a space heater, make sure it is UL certified and has a tip over turn off switch. He also says central heating should be inspected by a professional before being turned on and holiday decorations should be placed away from flammable objects.

Saunders wants to make sure all items are kept at least three feet away from fireplaces, space heaters and holiday decorations and all homes should have smoke detectors on every level of the residence.