Winter heating season brings worries about more housefires, carbon monoxide poisoning

Checking a fireplace yearly will keep it safe, and for older homes there should also be occasional video inspections of the inside of the chimney

With colder weather, firefighters are seeing more calls for heating-related fires, and for people overcome by carbon monoxide.

Here are some tips, from the experts, to keep yourself, and your home safe:

As we try to save on heating bills, some alternatives can be riskier than the furnace.

Gordon Kotars, former chief of the Taunton Volunteer Fire Department, says anything using combustion is a source of carbon monoxide, and if you're using auxiliary gas heaters or other furnace alternatives, you up the risk of carbon monoxide at dangerous levels

.Kotars says NY State law requires carbon monoxide detectors in all homes. And he suggests more than one: one at each level, and placement near sleeping areas in the house, as well.

Another concern, house fires because of fireplace-related problems. Sunday morning's fire at a home on Ruhamah Avenue, near Green Hills, is blamed on an accidentally overheated fireplace, that ignited adjacent combustibles, including wood in walls.

'They're not designed to be a heat source,' says chimney sweep Mike Ladd. He says that for safety, duration of the fires (no more than two to three hours) and the size of the fire (no 'roaring' fires) are both crucial.

Ladd works for Expert Chimney Services, and in addition to the recommended annual chimney cleaning, says that especially in older homes, a visual inspection of the inside of the fireplace is important. It's done with a camera that goes up the chimney, sending back images of the joints between tiles or bricks.

Ladd says that with older chimneys, it's usually cracks or missing mortar that create the hazards., and this really gives a birds' eye view of the interior fo the chimney.