Bitter cold can bring wave of fires

Jan 29, 2019

Buffalo firefighters are hoping you stay safe in this cold weather, not just outside but inside. This can be the season for residential fires, as people struggle to keep themselves, their families and their homes warm in this week of bitter cold.

Fire Commissioner William Renaldo is warning residents there are right things to do and wrong things to do when the temperatures dip. Some things are very basic, like making sure snow isn't blocking the exhaust from those high-efficiency furnaces that usually vent out the side of the house. If the vent plugs, it could put carbon monoxide into your home.

Renaldo said be careful what is used for heating.

"This proper use of your heating equipment. A lot of people, for one reason or another, they may use their heating appliances or stove, for instance, a gas stove, to heat their apartment or heat their house. Not a good idea," Renaldo said. "One thing, you could have an accidental fire. For another thing, you have the danger of carbon monixide poisoning. So definitely refrain from that."

Renaldo also pointed to the risks of do-it-yourself if you have a pipe freeze.

"One thing that we run into a lot of times in this type of weather, frigid weather is people trying to thaw their pipes out with open flame. Very dangerous," he said. "We've had some very severe fires and property damage in the past. So ask the public to please refrain from that. If you have some frozen pipes, call a professional. There's a right way to do it and to have an open flame in a crawl space trying to thaw your pipes out is not the right way to go."

The Erie County Water Authority advised area residents to run cold water at a trickle from the lowest point in their properties, as a precautionary measure to prevent water pipes from freezing. The advice is especially true if water lines run through unheated crawl spaces or basements or are otherwise exposed to the cold weather. The ECWA said a trickle should cost less than $1 a day, much less than a repair bill resulting from a frozen or burst water line.

Renaldo also asked residents who live near fire hydrants to make sure the hydrant is dug out of the snow in case his firefighters need the water flow. There is always concern about freezing at this time of year.

"Given this snow fall - and I don't know how much we're going to have, I think I've been hearing up to a foot, maybe foot-and-a-half - if you have a fire hydrant in front of your home or close to the front of your home, we have our crews out there shoveling on a daily basis when snow is falling, but if you see one that hasn't been cleared yet, don't be afraid to go out and do it yourself, because you are only helping yourself."

Imagine being a postal carrier in near-blizzard conditions. The U.S. Postal Service says carriers will make every reasonable attempt to deliver letters and packages to Western New York customers.

It is reminding customers to clear snow and ice from walkways, driveways, porches and areas around the mailbox.

“Slips, trips and falls continue to be the most frequent type of injury sustained by our carriers,” said WNY District Manager Jean Lovejoy. “As winter conditions worsen, so do the number of accidents. By simply clearing the way, customers help reduce the risk.”