Winter Heating and Fire Safety Tips

City officials are offering residents winter heating safety tips and reminding landlords of building code requirements for working furnaces and smoke alarms, all in an effort to keep Sioux Falls residents and visitors safe this winter.

International Property Maintenance Code requires furnaces to be in good working condition. Smoke alarms also are required to be installed and maintained on the ceiling or wall outside of each separate sleeping area, in each room used for sleeping purposes, and in each story within a dwelling unit, including basements. Landlords also are required to supply heat from September 1 to April 30 to maintain a minimum temperature of 68°F.

“In Planning and Building Services, we inspect properties to ensure they follow building and property maintenance codes, but we also are here to advocate on behalf of tenants and to keep landlords accountable to the codes, too,” says Matt Tobias, Code Enforcement Manager.

Already this season, one home fire in Sioux Falls has been caused by an improperly used space heater. Sioux Falls Fire Rescue wants residents to use heat sources wisely.

“Items like charcoal grills, ovens, and stoves should never be used to heat your home, and space heaters cannot be your primary heat source. Every home needs a consistent and safe heat source,” says Dean Lanier, Fire Marshal. “Also, we know that working smoke alarms save lives and should be installed and maintained in every home.”

 Some safety tips for winter heating and fire prevention include:

  • Space Heaters: If using a space heater, place it on a steady surface and at least three feet away from anything that can burn. A space heater should have a switch that will shut the heater off instantly if it tips over or gets too hot. Make sure to turn it off when you go to bed or leave the room.
  • Smoke Alarms: Replace smoke alarms in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations or at least every ten years. Additionally, test smoke alarms monthly, and change the battery at least once a year. An easy way to remember is to change the batteries when you change your clocks for daylight saving time.
  • Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Gas-fired appliances, charcoal grills, wood-burning fireplaces and stoves, and motor vehicles create carbon monoxide, a poisonous and deadly gas. Install carbon monoxide detectors within ten feet of all sleeping areas and test them monthly, too.
  •  Candles: Battery-operated, flameless candles are the safest choice. If you choose to use candles with real flames, place them in sturdy candleholders. Candles should be at least three feet from anything that can burn. Extinguish candles when you leave a room or go to sleep. Never use candles in the bedroom.
  •  Chimneys and Furnaces: Have chimneys and furnaces inspected and cleaned by a professional at least once a year, and change furnace filters according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  •  Ash Disposal: Dispose of ashes in a metal, airtight container until cooled. Fires from ashes have occurred days after improper disposal.
  •  Small Appliances: Unplug small appliances like coffee pots and toasters when not in use.

A City program provides financial assistance to low- and moderate-income homeowners for replacement of older, inefficient heating systems. No-interest loans for up to $3,000 can be used to replace older furnaces and install digital thermostats. Income limits apply. For more information, call Community Development’s Affordable Housing Division at 367-8180.

Sioux Falls Fire Rescue offers free smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, as well as in-home smoke alarm assessments. For more information, call 367-8093.