While the number of home heating fires has declined throughout the state, the number in Carroll County has increased steadily since 1990, according to a report by the state fire marshal.
In 1990, 86 heating-related fires were reported in the county. That number increased by one in 1991 and jumped to 111 in 1992. And 1993, the number rose to 118.
The number of heating-related fires across the state, meanwhile, dropped from 1,835 in 1989 to 1,329 last year. Firefighters in Carroll County responded to 115 chimney fires during the winter of 1993-1994, according to an independent survey. Some of those fires were in neighboring counties, and Carroll County equipment was dispatched to assist.
State Fire Marshal Rocco J. Gabriele said the severe weather of the past winter led to increased fire deaths, injuries and dollar losses associated with heating appliances. He urged county residents to take precautions before the weather turns severe, to avoid home heating tragedies.
Mr. Gabriele said a space or portable heater should be approved by either Underwriters Laboratories Inc. or Factory Mutual. Approved models carry the UL or FM label.
Portable heaters should be placed a minimum of 3 feet from anything that will ignite, including wallpaper, bed clothing, furniture, wood-panel walls and draperies. Kerosene heaters -- the small portable size -- are allowed only in single-family dwellings in the county.
Fireplaces and chimneys should be inspected by a professional chimney sweep before the start of each heating season and cleaned at least once for each cord of wood burned, the fire marshal said. Fireplace screens should be placed in front of fireplaces when they are being used, he said.
Wood stoves should also bear the name of an approved testing laboratory and be installed and used according to the manufacturer's instructions. When using a fireplace or wood stove, burn only clean, well-seasoned, dry firewood and never burn trash or other materials, Mr. Gabriele said.
Never use a flamable liquid such as gasoline to start a fire, he cautioned.
Smoke detectors, required by state law since the mid-1970s, are an important home safety item. One smoke detector should be installed on each level of the home and be kept in working order, the fire marshal said.
"If more people would pay close attention to these safety tips and follow the manufacturer's instructions when using space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves, many tragic fires could be prevented," Mr. Gabriele said.