Fire officials offer heating safety tips to avoid flames this season

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – As temperatures drop and people try to stay warm this season, firefighters are preparing for an increase in calls.

“We tend to see problems with heating systems and fireplaces and chimneys about this time of year – if they haven’t been maintained,” said Norfolk Fire-Rescue Battalion Chief Harry Worley.

Worley advises that people have their heating systems and chimneys professionally checked out at least once a year, before trying to crank up the heat.

A Norfolk couple learned that the hard way on Monday.

Laurel and Bill Pont told 10 On Your Side that they planned to have their chimney cleaned on Tuesday morning. They figured it’d be okay to build just one fire in the fireplace beforehand.

“Something went terribly wrong,” Laurel said.

Within minutes, she and her family heard a “jet noise” shoot up their fireplace. Bill ran outside and saw “billowing white smoke.” He yelled for the family to exit.

Firefighters quickly arrived and got the fire under control, saving the home. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

Worley told 10 On Your Side that another important way to avoid fires this season is to ensure you always keep an eye on your heating systems, and keep a distance from them.

“Don’t leave them unattended,” he said.

He encourages people who have kerosene heaters to fuel them outside, not inside a residence.

People who have gas appliances are advised to make sure they have working carbon monoxide detectors.

Regardless of what heating system you prefer, everyone should have working smoke detectors, Worley said.

People in Norfolk are able to receive free smoke detector installation by filling out an online form or by calling 757-664-6510.