Fire department offers safety tips for fireplaces, heaters, generators

With at least a few thousand Gwinnett residents without power Wednesday and the threat of outages continuing to loom, many may be looking for alternate ways to heat their homes.

The Gwinnett County fire department wants residents to do that — but do so safely. Capt. Tommy Rutledge offered tips for properly using fireplaces, space heaters and portable generators.


— Never use flammable liquids or charcoal to start a fire.

— Use only seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote build-up.

— Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.

— Never burn cardboard boxes, trash, paper or debris.

— When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate.

— Never leave a fire unattended. Extinguish before going to bed or leaving home.

— Allow ashes to cool before disposing of them in a “tightly covered metal container” kept at least 10 feet away from your home and other nearby building. Douse and saturate the ashes with water.


— Buy and use only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

— Only use heaters that have a thermostat control mechanism and will shut off automatically if they fall over.

— Never store or dry clothes on top of the heater.

— Plug space heaters directly into the wall, never into an extension cord or power strip. Always unplug when not in use.

— Leave at least three feet of space on every side of the heater.

— Turn off heaters when going to sleep or leaving home.


— Portable generators can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock, electrocution and fire.

— Always use generators outdoors, away from doors, windows and vents and never inside homes, garages, basements or crawl spaces.

— Install carbon monoxide alarms inside your home.

— Operate the generator on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure. Keep the generator dry.

— Dry hands before touching the generator.

— Plug appliances directly into the generator or use a heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cord.

— Never plug the generator into a wall outlet. This can cause an electrocution risk to utility workers and others served by the same transformer.

— Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool. Fuel spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.

— Always store fuel outside in properly labeled, non-glass containers, and away from any fuel-burning appliance.