Maintain your heating equipment to prevent house fires, fire department advises

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The Rockford Fire Department is warning residents about increased fire hazards during the fall season.

Homeowners typically turn on the heat without cleaning the furnace, or changing filters, which can cause a fire to start.

Fifteen percent of all home fires are caused by heating equipment, and more than half of all smoke detectors are not maintained.

“We want to have them vacuum cleaned and ready, ahead of time, so we’re not behind the ball when it gets cold,” said Tim Morris of the Rockford Fire Department. “Changing your filters and making sure you have a three-foot space around your furnace and water heater, because there is open flames and heat that can be emitted back out of a furnace or water heater if it malfunctions.”

On the outside, while the leaves fall from the trees, bonfires become a common sight in neighborhoods. Firefighters say that’s illegal — which can come a surprise to many residents.

Homeowners could be fined if the violate the ordinance.

“They are only by permit, so if you’re going to have a bonfire, especially a large bonfire at a function, you’re still required to have a permit,” Morris said.

On the other hand, city officials want homeowners who live next to vacant homes to keep an eye on suspicious activity. Vacant home fires spike in the cold months as homeless people use those structures to stay warm.

“They’re looking to either cook food or stay warm,” Morris said. “Either way, we have had fatalities because of that, because it’s unattended and they go to sleep and don’t wake up, and don’t have the detectors that we spoke about.”

The Fire Department will come out to inspect your home’s smoke detectors at any time.

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