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Shed fires often started by mistakes of their owners or neighbors, but they are easy to prevent

Lexington County, SC (Paul Kirby) - Shed and other outbuilding fires are not uncommon this time of year. Although the cause of any recent shed fires hasn’t been released by Lexington County fire officials, many begin when the temperature drops and people put heating devices in their sheds. These are often meant to keep plants, running water pipes, or animals warm.

All space heaters should have as a minimum 3’ of space between them and anything combustible like wood, paper,or plastics. This is not just important in a shed, this is also a must in a home. You should inspect your heating devices regularly to ensure their cords aren’t worn or frayed and that the device is approved by a reputable laboratory like Underwriters Laboratory. Never use a drop cord with these devices. Be wary of heating any shed where flammables like lawnmower gasoline is stored, especially with any device that has an open flame to generate heat.

Some people also use incandescent light bulbs, the old style with the small, hair-thin filaments in them, as a means of heating sheds, pump-houses, and animal bedding areas. Although these do give off heat, they should never be put near combustibles either. The receptacles, the place where you screw in the bulbs,are usually marked with the maximum allowable bulb wattage. Never exceed that wattage or you might also start a fire that way.

In SC, when the temperature drops, the humidity usually drops as well. That is why we so rarely have snow. Low relative humidity can make it much easier for fires outdoors to start and spread quickly. Unless we do have snow, sleet, or freezing rain in the next few days, we could see a dramatic increase in outdoor brush and woods fires as that happens.

If it is cold and dry when New Years Eve rolls round, you can expect to see our county firefighters respond to an increase in brush fires. These are easily started by fireworks, especially aerials like bottle-rockets, and can spread quickly too. These can consume sheds and outbuildings because they are often made of combustible materials. In many cases with sheds, the siding doesn’t go all the way to the ground like underpinning. If a grass fire runs under the building, they are often consumed before firefighters arrive.

Lexington County does have ordinances that deal with how and what you can burn outdoors. In many Lexington County towns and cities, you may not be able to burn any type of outdoor fires at all. It is best to first know whether you live in an area that has its own burning ordinances, and secondly, familiarize yourself with all local laws.

In Lexington County, basically if it doesn’t grow naturally, or if it has been transformed from its natural state to something else like lumber or boards, you can not legally burn that. You also need to have whatever tools and equipment you need at the ready to control your fire. That might just be a few rakes, or it may be a hose. There are a number of other regulations you need to be familiar with before ever burning outdoors. You can find those on Lexington County’s website at: http://www.lex-co.sc.gov/departments/DeptIQ/publicworks/Pages/Burn.aspx.

If you let a fire get out that you started, you can be held both civilly or criminally liable for the damages you do. If your fire gets out of control and crosses onto the lands of someone else, that will intensify your problems.

In closing, be careful. It’s just not worth the fines, the loss of property, or the sorrow you may experience if you aren’t fire safe. For more information on fire safety of any kind, check out the website of the Public Education tab of the National Fire Prevention Association at: http://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education.

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Call Paul Kirby

(803) 587-3144