Doña Ana County



As the weather turns cooler, the Doña Ana County Fire Marshal’s Office reminds residents to exercise safety while heating their homes. More than 13 percent of residential fires are related to the use of supplemental room heaters, such as coal-burning stoves, kerosene heaters, gas space heaters and electric heaters.

Most fires related to supplemental heating devices are caused by improper installation, maintenance or use of the appliance. Every appliance should be installed and used according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Wood stoves should sit on a non-combustible surface or a code-specified floor protector. Fireplaces should have non-combustible materials around the opening and hearth. Space heaters should sit on firm surfaces out of the way to prevent being tipped over and spilling fuel, and they should never be left unattended for any reason.

Vents and chimneys for heating appliances must be installed with proper clearances from combustible materials. A common fire cause is improperly installed chimney pipes that pass through walls too close to the combustible materials within the walls. Unvented gas fireplaces should not be used in enclosed areas (especially bedrooms) because of the potential for carbon-monoxide poisoning.

Careful operation is crucial to safety. Use only fuels appropriate for the appliance. Use coal only if approved by the manufacturer. Never use gasoline or other combustible fuels to start a wood fire, since it might explode or flare up. Even small amounts of gasoline mixed with kerosene can increase the risk of fire. The directions on artificial logs made from wax and sawdust say to use one at a time in fireplaces and never to use in wood-burning stoves. Always use the screen to prevent sparks from shooting out of the fireplace. Keep a window open or a door ajar in a room where an unvented heater is in use. Never use extension cords with an electric space heater. Never leave any heating device unattended. Keep young children and pets away from all hot surfaces.

Chimneys and vents should be inspected and cleaned annually. Creosote is an unavoidable product of wood-burning stoves and chimneys. Creosote builds up in connectors and chimney flues and can cause a chimney fire.

Have your chimneys as well as any and all heating devices inspected annually by a professional. Do not burn newspapers or other trash in fireplaces, because they burn too hot and can ignite a chimney fire. Kerosene heaters should be cleaned and wicks replaced annually. Electric heaters with frayed wires should be discarded.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless toxic gas. The effects of carbon monoxide are similar to the flu. The best way to protect you and your family from carbon monoxide poisoning is to install UL- approved carbon monoxide detectors with an audible signal near the sleeping areas and outside the individual bedrooms. Carbon monoxide detectors monitor the levels of carbon monoxide in the home and will sound an alarm if the levels of the gas reach unacceptable indoor levels.

Smoke detectors should be tested monthly and the batteries should be changed every six months. Smoke detectors are a family’s best defense against being hurt or killed in a home fire.

For more information, call the Doña Ana County Fire Marshal’s Office at (505) 647-7921.