After two large structure fires in recent weeks, the Helena Fire Department is advising residents on steps they can take to help them stay safe.
HFD leaders say it appears both recent apartment fires – in a building on Broadway Dec. 26 and in a building on Raymond Street Jan. 4 – were accidental, and linked to heating appliances.
Fire Marshal Lou Antonick said the number of structure fires always goes up in the winter. He said it’s important to have a professional inspect your heating system every year, from the furnace or stove itself to the chimneys.
“I can’t stress enough about cleaning those and making sure that they’re operating the way that they’re supposed to operate,” he said.
People should also make sure to clear out a three-foot area around a furnace or other heating appliance.
“People don’t understand,” Antonick said. “They have blankets or furniture or bedding or something else next to that furnace and they leave it there. It’s running all the time, and then that’s when we see accidents happen.”