By Melanie Speicher -

SIDNEY — Monday and Tuesday’s temperatures might have been in the 90s, but everyone knows that cooler temperatures are just around the corner.

And with the cooler weather comes the use of fireplaces and wood stoves to heat a home.

“Last year, 2,600 lives were lost in house fires,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart during his weekly interview.

Another 13,000 people are injured in the 375,000 house fires in the United States in 2018.

The top seven causes of house, fires, said Lenhart, are:

1. Cooking equipment

2. Kids playing with fire

3. Smoking

4. Heating

5. Electrical equipment

6. Candles

7. Fire places and wood stoves

“The time to cut and burn wood is just around the corner,” said Lenhart.

Before you start the fire in a fireplace, the chimney should be checked out, he said.

“If, after starting a fire, you hear a loud popping noise, crackling sounds or smell something hot, that means the creosol is burning in the chimney,” said Lenhart. “That can destroy the chimney and cause a house fire.”

Green wood can cause problems when it’s burned, he said.

“All wood should be cut and dried for at least six months before it’s used,” said Lenhart.

Fires in a wood stove can be contained easier if something happens, said Lenhart.

“Never use combustible materials to start your fire,” said Lenhart. “And make sure you chimney is clean before you start using the fireplace.”

Birds and animals, he said, like to take up residence in the top of the chimney. This can stop the hot ashes from going out of the chimney when the owner has a fire going in the fireplace.

“Look up the chimney before you start a fire,” said Lenhart. “You can take a mirror and look up the chimney. If you can see daylight, chances are you’re not going to have a problem.”

Make sure there are no cracks in the chimney nor bird nests in it.

Lenhart said he’s been around wood stoves since he was a little boy. And the one thing to always remember is to never overload it with wood.

“When you’re cleaning up the ashes in a fireplace or wood stove, always put them in a metal bucket,” said Lenhart. “No matter how safe you think it is, there maybe some hot coals in the ashes, which could catch fire.”

Lenhart said all homes should have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors installed.

“Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of death,” he said.

Lenhart said he just returned from the National Sheriff’s Association conference in Washington, D.C.

“We had a meeting with the president and 175 sheriffs,” said Lenhart. “We had a photograph taken at the White House.”

The sheriffs met with senators and congressmen to discuss issues important to them.

“They were not focused on business,” said Lenhart. “They wanted to talk about the phone call to the Ukraine.

The sheriffs also meet with ICE officials on the immigration problems.

“There are 570,000 fugitive warrants out for illegals who have committed crimes in the United States,” said Lenhart. “I was surprised to learn the immigration laws haven’t been updated since the 1960s. I think both sides have let this slide for a long time.”

He said one million people entered the U.S. illegally in the last fiscal year. Of those, 50,000 were from the Mideast countries and entered through the Mexican-U.S. border.

“The numbers are going down of those coming in illegally,” said Lenhart. “That’s because of the cooperation in the Southern countries. Security has been enhanced, but we have a long way to go.”

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.