Firefighters, Doctors Stress Home Heating Safety During Power Outage

By: Shannon Kantner Email
By: Shannon Kantner Email

 “The headache and the nausea, people think, 'Oh, I might just be coming down with something,' but it can quickly progress to becoming unconscious, passing out, or having chest pain."

-Dr. John Dery, Sparrow Hospital  

With thousands still living in the dark and the cold, many are turning to fireplaces or generators to stay warm.

But they might be putting themselves in danger without even realizing it. Emergency crews are urging people to use caution after a Christmas Eve filled with tragedies.

A Lansing family lost everything in a house fire Tuesday morning.

“This is my first time building a fire inside the house,” Christopher Jackson said.

Sadly, it's also his last. Jackson’s home for 10 years on South Cambridge Road is now a total loss after a fire he built to stay warm without power got out of control.

“My thing was to get my kid safe and my grandson safe.

They all made it out safely and firefighters are doing their best to support the family.

“We're here to help,” Lansing Fire Department Public Information Office Steve Babcock said.

Firefighters also want to help prevent this from happening to other families, especially those who haven’t used the fireplace in a while. Start by cleaning the chimney and opening the flue. Clear the hearth around the fireplace of anything that could ignite, including decorations. Never use an accelerant and never let the fire burn overnight.

“Everybody wants a big roaring fire. No, not so much, because it's tough to control it,” Babcock said.

He recommends a wire mesh guard in front of the fireplace to protect from flying embers. But if you're using a generator, danger might be harder to spot. Sparrow Hospital has seen an increase in carbon monoxide poisoning during the power outage.

“We call this kind of a silent killer because you never see it coming,” Dr. John Dery said.

Dr. Dery warns that you can't taste it or smell it, and the symptoms are very mild but should be taken seriously.

“The headache and the nausea, people think, 'Oh, I might just be coming down with something,' but it can quickly progress to becoming unconscious, passing out, or having chest pain,” Dr. Dery said.

That's what happened on West Ionia Street early Tuesday morning to a child and an adult. They had a generator running in the basement.

Dr. Dery said if you run an errand and realize you feel better in the fresh air, it could be a sign of carbon monoxide in your home. Make sure generators and kerosene lamps are monitored.

“Gasoline generators are not meant to be used in an enclosed space,” Babcock said.

Generators should be placed outside only -- a back deck is fine, but far enough away so that fumes can't leak in through windows.

Experts say the best way to stay warm and stay safe is by making sure there are working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors throughout the home.

If you want to help the family who lost their home in the fire, click on the link above to a gofundme account. is happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules:

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