I hate to say this, but colder weather is upon us and winter is coming.

Everyone is cleaning up leaves and getting outdoor projects done before the snow flies but it is also important that the inside of your home is ready for winter.

Since furnaces, fireplaces and space heaters are running, it is vital to make sure your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order. This means you need to test them, change batteries and clean them.

If they are 10 years or older, please replace them with new ones.

This is also the time to get your furnace checked and cleaned.

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Today, I would like to share an incident that happened recently in town and happens far more than we would prefer. The West Fargo Fire Department had a call about a fire that started because of staining material and rag storage.

Earlier in the day the individual had done some staining and the rags that were used were left in a pile in the garage. A fire started within the rags and damage was done to the garage from the heat and smoke. The fire was contained to the garage area because of early notification by the residents who were inside the home. This fire could have been much worse, spreading to the home or injuring the home owners. It seemed a good time to discuss fire safety in regards to paints, thinners and stains.

It seems at some point in our lives, many of us refinish or redecorate items for a hobby or to improve their appearance. There are two types of finishes commonly used, water based and oil based. If everyone would use water based stains/paints/finishes this article wouldn’t be necessary, since water based solutions are non-flammable. However, on occasion oil based products are used for a number of different reasons.

The use of brushes on surfaces usually are not a concern because they are not as easily dismissed as “just a rag”. Cleanup is usually done outside with a thinner and has an odor nobody cares for, so it is removed and discarded. I’m not saying it is not a fire hazard; being flammable in nature, care still needs to be taken such and not used near open flames, smoking materials, etc. When staining though, rags are used usually instead of brushes. Cleanup of rags usually ends up with them being discarded in a pile or in the trash. This is where a bit of trouble can occur when a reaction called spontaneous combustion can occur.

The most common type of spontaneous combustion fires are those caused by improperly disposed of oil and stain soaked rags. Examples of these products are oil-based paints and stains, teak and linseed oils, varnishes and polyurethane, and paint thinners. Spontaneous combustion of oily rags occurs when a rag or cloth is slowly heated to its ignition point through oxidation. A substance will begin to release heat as it oxidizes. If this heat has no way to escape (like in rags in a pile) the temperature will raise to a level high enough to ignite the oil and ignite the rag or cloth. This fire can spread quickly to other combustibles and cause great damage to your home or property and potentially personal injury.

Prevention of spontaneous combustion fires begins with basic housekeeping. A clean work area can prevent a fire from spreading and getting bigger by not allowing the fire to have additional items nearby to burn. The most important thing to understand is the proper disposal of rags soiled with oils, such as linseed oil and turpentine, is key in eliminating these preventable fires. Using a metal container with a lid and soaking the rags in water will help eliminate any fire concerns.

If you have any further questions in regards to fire safety, please contact the West Fargo Fire Department at 433-5380. Have a fire safe November.