News from 555 Gearhart Road: Keeping warm during cold weather

By Melanie Speicher -

SIDNEY — Frigid … frozen … down right cold.

Those words describe the weekend weather in Shelby County. With the first major storm of the year, some residents also experienced power outages too.

“A number of people were without electricity and had trouble heating their home,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart during his weekly interview.

Many people, he said, have wood burning stoves, fireplaces and heaters to help keep their homes warm during the frigid cold.

Wood burners and fireplaces should be checked out before they are used for the winter season.

“After the mild winters we’ve had, some people may not have checked out their fire places to make sure they were safe to use,” said Lenhart.

He said homeowners or renters should make sure the wood burners and fireplaces are well vented, maintained and the creosote is cleaned out of the heating unit.

The right kind of fuel should also be used, said Lenhart.

“Hard woods — such as maple, ash, hickory and oak —are the best to use for a fire,” said Lenhart. “It should be split and air dried for a year before you burn it. We’ve run out of wood before and used a dead ash tree from the woods. It didn’t burn as hot or clean as wood that has been dried for a year.”

A slow burning fire, he said, will cause creosote to build up in the fireplace’s chimney. A 200 degree fire can cause combustible gases and creosote to build up.

“You should do a hot fire first thing in the morning (or when you first start the fire) to burn up the gases and creosote,” said Lenhart. “We have a wood stove in our garage that is tied into our heating system in the house. If I don’t want to go out into the garage at night to add wood, then the propane heat will kick in.”

Creosote, he said, will flake off the sides of the chimney.

“If you burn it hot one time a day, it will burn out the creosote,” he said.

All wood, he said, should be stored outside and covered to protect it from the snow and rain.

“You should start the fire with clean newspaper,” he said. “Dry kindling will also help start the fire. Never use lighter fluid or gasoline to start the fire.

“You should start a small fire in the fireplace and reload it with three pieces of wood each time it burns down,” said Lenhart. “You should remove the ashes daily and put them in a metal container. Never use a plastic container or box because the ashes can burn through those containers.”

Lenhart said small children should also be kept away from the fireplace and wood burner.

“They may not recognize the danger from the fireplace and wood burner,” he said.

Most electric heaters, said Lenhart, come with an automatic shut-off if it is knocked over.

“No grills or propane heaters should be used into a home,” said Lenhart. “They make carbon monoxide, which is known as the silent killer.”

Kerosene heaters should be filled with kerosene outside the residence.

“Never leave the heater unattended,” said Lenhart. “Make sure your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector are both working properly. “Follow the directions for all the heaters that you might use.”

Generators, he said, shouldn’t be set up in a garage as they can also cause carbon monoxide to go inside the house.

“If you use propane heat in the country, clear the snow and ice around the tank,” said Lenhart. “That will help the regulators work better. You should use a broom and not a shovel when clearing the snow so you don’t damage the tank or regulators.

“And clean a path to the tank so the person coming to refill it can get to it easier,” he said. “If you smell gas in the house, shut off the propane gas at the tank by turning the knobs clockwise. Then air your house out.”

And get someone in to check to see why the gas smell happened, he said.

By Melanie Speicher

The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.

The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.