There's nothing cozier than a fire in the hearth or the heat from a wood stove taking away the chill.

There's nothing cozier than a fire in the hearth or the heat from a wood stove taking away the chill.
With winter underway, Neosho and Southwest Missouri have experienced bitter cold and sub-zero temperatures. Although the forecast calls for some less frigid temperatures, winter is far from over.  Area residents who rely on wood heat to keep warm should always keep safety in mind.
Those who heat with a furnace also need to be aware of potential hazards and safe practices.
According to Neosho Fire Chief Mike Eads, prevention is the key.
"Always use common sense when using any type of heat source," Eads said. "Always make sure everything is in good working order. Our job may be firefighters but our goal is prevention and keeping everyone safe."
For those using wood-fired stoves or fireplaces, Eads offered these tips for fireplace or wood stove safety
• Make sure your flue has been inspected and or cleaned before using. Check for creosote build-up, clean if needed and inspect for cracks in the flue lining. Repair before using.

2.       Burn seasoned wood. Wood at least a year old is best.

3.       Do not burn paper in the fireplace or wood stove. Burning paper can raise in the flue, causing any creosote build up to catch fire. Also if there is not a screen cap on top of the flue, the burning paper can drift out and onto the roof or dry grass/leaves on the ground.

4.       Keep combustible objects away from the fire place or wood stove.

5.       Watch for sparks and burning embers from falling on flooring when cleaning or filling the fireplace or wood stove.

6.       Make sure any ashes cleaned out is placed in an approved container is stored away from any combustible objects until ashes are cold. If removed from the home, make sure the ashes are cold when disposed of. Ashes can hold heat for several days.

7.       Consult a professional chimney sweep if there is any concerns with your flue or chimney.

Eads also offered some safety suggestions for those who use a conventional heating system, whether it is powered by electricity, natural gas or propane:

1.       Have your heating system checked before starting use. Each system is different. Electric vs. Gas (propane vs. Natural gas)

2.       Check for combustibles too close to the furnace, including paper, cloth, kindling, anything that could catch fire easily.

3.       Check for proper ventilation on gas systems.

4.       Only use space heaters when needed. Unplug when not in use.

5.       Never use an extension cord with a space heater. Plug directly into a wall outlet.

6.       Keep space heaters a safe distance from combustible objects.

7.       Watch that all cords are not pinched or covered by other objects.

8.       Make sure all safety features on space heaters work and cords are in good shape. Do not use if in doubt.

When it comes to home safety and prevention, make sure all smoke and heat detectors are present and working properly. Check manufacturing standards for the type that best works for your application or need.
Make sure CO (carbon monoxide) detectors are working properly. Eads stated that these are needed for anyone with a gas stove, gas furnace, gas water heater, fireplace or wood stove. Carbon monoxide can be deadly and without a CO detector in place, high levels can cause carbon monoxide poisoning to cause illness or even death.
Any detector more than 10 years old should be checked to make sure it is still working properly and replaced if needed. Check manufacturing standards for proper testing procedures.
Keep a fire extinguisher in your home at all times. Check it per manufacturing standards periodically to make sure it works.
If ever in doubt if your heating system or detectors are not working properly, consult a professional.
"We had a quiet holiday season for fire calls for Neosho and the fire district that we cover," Eads said, with the reminder the fire department's goal is always prevention.
Additional fire and heating safety tips may be found online.
American Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/fire
National Fire Protection Association: http://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/By-topic/Top-causes-of-fire/Heating/Heating-safety-tips
National Safety Council: http://www.nsc.org/Membership%20Site%20Document%20Library/Home-Heating-Tips.pdf
"Never  hesitate to call 911," Eads said.