As fall deepens in western Montana and residents start up their furnaces and home heating systems, Missoula fire officials remind residents that October is Fire Prevention Month.

We reached out to both Dax Fraser with the Missoula City Fire Department and Battalion Chief Mike Bowman with Missoula Rural Fire for guidance on safely preparing our homes for cold weather.

Chief Bowman said his firefighters will soon be visiting local schools and sharing the message of fire safety.

“It is coming up on fire prevention month,” said Chief Bowman. “October is when we are ramping up our fire prevention efforts and are going to be in the local schools, teaching match safety to children across the county. We always stress that fall time is a good time to check your smoke detectors and change the batteries, which is recommended a couple of times during the year.”

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Some smaller buildings and apartments may have space heaters rather than a furnace, and Chief Bowman provided this advice.

“When the weather gets cooler like it is, evenings are cool. People start using space heaters and that's always a concern,” he said. “When using space heaters or smaller heaters, keep them at least three feet away from any combustible materials, clothes, curtains, or anything that could ignite. Most of the modern space heaters usually have tip-over protection, so if they do tip over accidentally, they'll shut themselves off.”

Chief Bowman said every family should also develop and practice a fire escape plan.

“We also teach in the school programs for families to have a home fire escape plan,” he said. “We recommend utilizing and practicing that escape plan a couple of times a year. So if a family has a plan in place and they have a residential fire and their smoke detectors go off, then everybody has a meeting place, and so when one of the family members does not make it to the meeting place, which is generally out front of the house in a specific location when the fire department arrives on the scene, we can get an accurate count of who's missing.”

Fire Marshall Dax Fraser with the Missoula City Fire Department recommended that all homeowners replace their furnace filters and have their heating systems inspected for safety.

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