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Fire guts home on Old Parker Road
The Wynn family lost all their posessions after a fire destroyed the inside of their home on Old Parker Road. - photo by Michelle Kim

Fire Safety Tips during Winter

Wood Stove and Fireplaces

* Be sure the fireplace or stove is installed properly. Wood stoves should have adequate clearance (36 inches) from combustible surfaces and proper floor support and protection.

* Wood stoves should be of good quality, solid construction, and design. Purchase wood stoves evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

* Have the chimney inspected annually and cleaned if necessary, especially if it has not been used for some time.

* Do not use flammable liquids to start or accelerate any fire.

* Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace opening, to prevent embers or sparks from jumping out, unwanted material from going in, and help prevent the possibility of burns to occupants.

* The stove should be burned hot twice a day for 15-30 minutes to reduce the amount of creosote buildup.

* Don't use excessive amounts of paper to build roaring fires in fireplaces. It is possible to ignite creosote in the chimney by overbuilding the fire.

* Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal can give off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide.

* Keep flammable materials away from your fireplace mantel. A spark from the fireplace could easily ignite these materials.

* Before you go to sleep, be sure your fireplace fire is out. NEVER close your damper with hot ashes in the fireplace. A closed damper will help the fire to heat up again and will force toxic carbon monoxide into the house.

* If synthetic logs are used, follow the directions on the package. NEVER break a synthetic log apart to quicken the fire or use more than one log at a time. They often burn unevenly, releasing higher levels of carbon monoxide.


Furnace Heating

It is important that you have your furnace inspected to ensure that it is in good working condition.

* Be sure all furnace controls and emergency shutoffs are in proper working condition.

* Leave furnace repairs to qualified specialists. Do not attempt repairs yourself unless you are qualified.

* Inspect the walls and ceiling near the furnace and along the chimney line. If the wall is hot or discolored, additional pipe insulation or clearance may be required.

* Check the flue pipe and pipe seams. Are they well supported and free of holes and cracks? Soot along or around seams may be an indicator of a leak.

* Is the chimney solid, with cracks or loose bricks? All unused flue openings should be sealed with solid masonry.

* Keep trash and other combustibles away from the heating system.


Kerosene Heaters

* Be sure your heater is in good working condition. Inspect exhaust parts for carbon buildup. Be sure the heater has an emergency shut off in case the heater is tipped over.

* Never use fuel burning appliances without proper room venting. Burning fuel (coal, kerosene, or propane, for example) can produce deadly fumes.

* Use ONLY the fuel recommended by the heater manufacturer. NEVER introduce a fuel into a unit not designed for that type fuel.

* Keep kerosene, or other flammable liquids stored in approved metal containers, in well ventilated storage areas, outside of the house.

* NEVER fill the heater while it is operating or hot. When refueling an oil or kerosene unit, avoid overfilling. DO NOT use cold fuel for it may expand in the tank as it warms up.

* Refueling should be done outside of the home (or outdoors). Keep young children away from space heaters--especially when they are wearing night gowns or other loose clothing that can be easily ignited.

* When using a fuel burning appliance in the bedroom, be sure there is proper ventilation to prevent a buildup of carbon monoxide.


Other Fire Safety Tips

* Never discard hot ashes inside or near the home. Place them in a metal container outside and well away from the house.

* Never use a range or an oven as a supplemental heating device. Not only is it a safety hazard, it can bea source of potentially toxic fumes.

* If you use an electric heater, be sure not to overload the circuit. Only use extension cords which have the necessary rating to carry an amp load. TIP: Choose an extension cord the same size or larger than the appliance electrical cord.

* Avoid using electrical space heaters in bathrooms or other areas where they may come in contact with water.

* Frozen water pipes? Never try to thaw them with a blow torch or other open flame, otherwise the pipe could conduct the heat and ignite the wall structure inside the wall space. Use hot water for thawing or a device, like a hand-held dryer, evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

* If windows are used as emergency exits in your home, practice using them in the event fire should strike. Be sure that all the windows open easily. Home escape ladders are recommended.

* If there is a fire hydrant near your home you can assist the fire department by keeping the hydrant clear of snow so in the event it is needed, it can be located.


Finally . . .

* Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your home and inside and outside of sleeping areas. Be sure to check and clean them on a monthly basis.

* Plan and practice a home escape plan with your family.

* Contact your local fire department for advice if you have a question on home fire safety. Rockdale County Fire and Rescue Department's non-emergency number: 770-278-8401


Source: U.S. Fire Administration


A hot chimney on a chilly autumn night is suspected of sparking a fire that destroyed a home while the family was out Monday evening.

Officers happened to be riding through the area shortly after 8 p.m. when they noticed smoke coming from 1951 Old Parker Road and notified dispatchers.

Homeowner Gary Wynn said his family were out having dinner at a relative's house that evening when he received a call from a neighbor about what was going on. He arrived back to his driveway to see flames 5 feet tall shooting through the roof.

Firefighters were on the scene for about four hours and no one was injured in the incident, said Rockdale County Fire Department spokesperson Deputy Fire Chief Mike Lee. The interior of the house was gutted but the fire was contained and stopped from spreading to the other nearby houses and the many pine trees near the house.

The family dogs were already outdoors, but the family's pet bird, a 17-year-old cockatiel, was killed.

The origins of the fire are still being investigated, but bricks in the chimney that overheated are suspected of igniting interior walls.

The house, built in 1954, was where Gary Wynn grew up.

Although they lost everything, the Wynn family, members of Baptist Tabernacle Church in Covington, still say they are lucky.

"God's hand was in it," said Sandra Wynn. If it had happened late at night or early morning while everyone was asleep inside, she explained, they could have been killed. Gary pointed out possessions can be replaced and the important thing was that everyone was safe.

He said they are currently staying with a relative and have not been contacted by the Red Cross.