Public Safety

Here are some common winter 'don'ts' that could result in fire, injury or death

Advice from the Cedar Rapids Fire Department

A bicyclist pedals along Third Avenue over the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. (Jim Slosiar
A bicyclist pedals along Third Avenue over the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

With the arrival of winter comes house fires that sometimes stem from people doing whatever they can think of to try to stay warm.

But coping with the cold doesn’t mean having to fight the flames.

“There are a few simple things people can do to prepare for winter and that way they’ll be less likely to run into problems when it really starts to get cold,” said Cedar Rapids Assistant Fire Chief Andy Olesen.

Some advice:

1) Don’t use space heaters, blow torches or anything with an open flame to thaw frozen pipes. Earlier this week, Linn County authorities responded to a fire where a homeowner was doing just that. He left a torch unattended and despite his efforts to douse the flames, the fire spread out of control, deputies said. Instead of a torch, use self-regulating heating tape or cable or even a hair dryer. Make sure the tap is open. Calling a plumber is a good idea.

2) Don’t use space heaters near combustible materials like clothes or paper. A space heater should have at least 3 feet of open space around it and should not be left unattended, Olesen said.

3) Don’t use the stove, oven, a charcoal grill or candles to heat your home. Instead, make sure your heating system is working before winter sets in. If something breaks, call a repair person immediately.

4) Don’t use a wood-burning stove or fireplace without making sure the chimney is clean and clear. Chimneys should be cleaned at least once a year, Olesen said, to ensure there are no blockages that could catch fire or prevent proper ventilation.

5) Don’t plug space heaters into power strips or extension cords. They aren’t designed to support the power draw and can cause the wiring in the strip or cord to melt, which could lead to fire. Plug space heaters directly into an outlet.


6) Be smart about shoveling. It’s strenuous work that can result in injury or even death. People should make sure they are healthy enough to shovel snow, take a lot of breaks and ask for help if too demanding.

Comments: (319) 398-8238;

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.