Troop’s Tips by Lt. Matt Bryant, HFD

February 3, 2012

Editor’s Note: Matt Bryant is a lieutenant on the Hamlin Twp. Fire Dept. He also serves on the Mason-Oceana 911 board and is the owner of Bryant Irrigation. He acquired the nickname “Troop” from his days in the Marine Corps. In this column, Matt will provide information about safety, particularly in cases that may involve the fire department.  


Wood stoves, space heaters and candles



Lt. Matt Bryant

By MATT BRYANT columnist


Winter is upon us. Although it is a mild one, this is Michigan. Cold and snow can be right around the corner. I would like to take a little time and give a few tips to maybe help keep you and your family a little safer. A few things I would like to discuss are wood stoves, space heaters and candles.


First, let’s start with the wood stove. I am a firefighter in Mason County. While I sit here writing this, I am listening to a fire call on my pager. The call is a chimney fire. Unfortunately it is an all too common thing, something that can be prevented with proper maintenance.


An inspection from top to bottom can prevent most problems that occur with wood stoves. Start at the top with the chimney. Check for build up on the inside of the chimney. A chimney should be cleaned at a minimum annually if your wood stove is used often. It is good practice to clean and inspect once a month during the time the wood stove is in use. Check for cracks, separated joints and holes from rust. This should be done all the way from the cap to the wood stove.


Once you have completed the chimney inspect the wood stove. Check doors for proper operation, look at seals, hinges and handles. Any damage to these items should be repaired before a fire is lit. Inside check grates and fire bricks for damage. Replace as needed. Look around the wood stove for combustibles: curtains, furniture, even your wood for burning. Keep these at a safe distance so sparks and ambers don’t ignite these items.


Next let’s talk about space heaters. Space heaters are a popular inexpensive way to heat a small area. There are a few things to be aware of when using these devices. Curtains, furniture and blankets are most common fire hazards around space heaters. Place the space heater with sufficient distance away from these items so that no contact is made. Check items nearest the space heater with the back of your hand. If it is too hot to hold your hand on it, then move the heater or the item away to a safe distance. Whenever possible do not use extension cords. Space heaters are designed to be used with the length of cord provide. Extra resistance of electricity through extension cords pose a fire hazard. Extension cords can cause some one to trip and tip over the space heater resulting in a fire as well.


The last item I would like to mention is candles. Candles are used for reading, relaxing or to send that endless fragrance drifting through your house. But, they too are a hazard if left unattended. Some tips you can use to prevent fires: place your candles on flat level surfaces away from combustibles; keep children and pets away. Never leave a candle unattended in another room. And, this one I cannot stress enough: Never, leave a candle burning while you are sleeping.  One last thing, don’t forget what you use to start that candle with, matches a lighter, etc., “little hands” can get a hold of these and, you guessed it: fire hazard.

The single most important thing you can do to help yourself and your family be safe is to have functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Early detection can improve the chances of a life saving escape.


There are many other areas of safety to cover. These are just a few that are common that we see all too often in the fire service. I hope these tips are helpful.  If you have any questions feel free to contact your local fire department, they can help point you in the right direction. Should you suspect a fire don’t hesitate to call 911. When in doubt call us out.


Eats & Drinks

Eats & Drinks