Winter Fire Safety Tips


Schererville Fire Chief Joe Kruzan encourages all residents to take a moment to think about fire safety this winter. Statistically, more fires occur during the winter months than any other time. Taking simple precautions can prevent most fires. Follow the safety tips below to help ensure your family’s safety. Remember; fire safety starts with you. If you ever have any questions, please feel free to contact your Schererville Fire Department at 219-322-2599. 

Portable Heaters:

Give heaters space. Put at least 36 inches of empty space between the heater and everything else, like furniture, curtains, papers and people.

Vacuum and clean the dust and lint from all heaters. A buildup of dust and lint can cause a fire.

Check the cord on portable electric heaters. If the cord gets hot, frayed or cracked have the heater serviced or replaced. 

Never use extension cords with portable electric heaters. It is a common cause of fires.

Turn off portable heaters when family members leave the house or are sleeping.

An adult should always be present when a space heater is used around children.

Make sure your portable electric heater is UL approved and has a tip-over shut off function.

Woodstove and Fireplace Safety:

Have a certified chimney sweep clean and inspect your chimney and fireplace for creosote build-up, cracks, crumbling bricks and obstructions annually. 

Place fireplace or wood stove ashes outdoors in a covered metal container at least three feet away from anything that burns.

A flue fire can ruin your chimney or stovepipe. To prevent flue fires, burn dry, well-seasoned wood. Burn small, hot fires. Don’t burn trash.

Always use a fireplace screen made of sturdy metal or heat-tempered glass to prevent sparks from escaping. (If children are present, use a special child-guard screen as a barrier for your woodstove.)

Alternative Heat Sources:

Kerosene heaters can emit poisonous fumes and are not recommended for home use. 

Barbecues, charcoal grills, and camp stoves are for outdoor use only. These items can produce carbon monoxide. Odorless and colorless, a build-up of carbon monoxide can be deadly. 


If you have a portable generator, make sure you place it in a well-ventilated area. They are recommended to remain outside of a home.  Read the manufacturer’s instructions before using it.

Be sure generator fuel is properly and safely stored according to fire regulations. Never store fuel or flammable liquids in a basement or near an open flame. Always refuel the generator away from any ignition sources.

If you choose to have a generator permanently connected to your home’s electrical system, make sure a licensed electrician (and certified to work in Schererville) installs it and be sure you notify NIPSCO. Improperly installed generators can cause multiple types of hazards not only for you but for power company workers as well.

Flammable Liquids: Use gasoline only as a motor fuel, never as a cleaner.

Always use gasoline in a well-vented area, outside is best.

Never use gasoline to start fires.

Store gasoline in an approved well-labeled container. Make sure the container is tightly sealed. Store gasoline outside the house, in a shed, or detached garage. Store only small amounts.

Make sure all flammable liquids are stored away from ignition sources such as pilot lights, water heaters, electrical appliances and open flames.

Propane: Like many other efficient fuels, propane is highly flammable. That means it can be dangerous is not handled properly.

If using a propane fueled heater, make sure it is designed for indoor use. Read all of the manufacturer’s instructions and make sure it is properly vented.

Do not use propane barbecues (or any other type of barbecue) indoors.

If you have propane fueled appliances, make sure they are properly vented and follow all manufacturers’ instructions.

If you smell gas, do not operate any switches, appliances or thermostats. A spark from one of these could ignite the gas. Get everyone outside and away from the building. Shut off the gas supply if you know how, call 911 and NIPSCO. 

Smoke Alarms and Home Escape Plans: Working smoke alarms alert you to a fire and more than double your chances of surviving a fire. In a fire, minutes could mean the difference between life and death.

Install smoke alarms in every home, on every level, outside each sleeping area and in each bedroom.

Test and vacuum your smoke alarms each month to make sure they are working. 

Smoke alarms ten years old or older need to be replaced with new units.

When the smoke alarm sounds, get out fast!

Plan your escape. Know two ways out of every room.

Once out, stay out!

Practice your escape plan with your whole family at least twice a year.

If you need a smoke detector, please call the Schererville Fire Department Inspection Bureau at 219-865-5519, and one will be provided at no cost. 

Candles: Place candles in a sturdy fire-proof candleholder where they cannot be knocked over. 

Make sure all candles are out before going to bed or leaving the house.

Keep candles matches and lighters out of children’s reach.

Keep candles away from Christmas trees, evergreen clippings, decorations, presents and wrapping paper. 

Emergency Preparedness: Put together an emergency kit. At a minimum include a flashlight, extra batteries, portable radio, canned/packaged foods, tool kit, bottled water, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, extra blankets, and clothes.

Be familiar with winter storm warning terms.

Freezing rain – Rain freezes as soon as it strikes the ground, putting a coating of ice on roads and other exposed objects.

Flood watch – Be alert to signs of flash flooding and be ready to evacuate on a moment’s notice.

Winter storm watch – Severe weather may affect your area.

Winter storm warning – Severe weather conditions are definitely on the way.

Take a few moments to share these tips with every member of your family.  Talk about these subjects at dinner or at another family gathering. Taking a couple moments now may prevent a future tragedy. Most tragedies can be averted, if we all follow these guidelines.

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