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Dear Readers:

(Nick Schuler)

Please make this your New Year's resolution: Be sure your home is safe for you and your loved ones during this winter season.

If you own a fireplace, have your chimneys checked before burning fires in this cold winter. These photos, taken at home in Valley Center, were the result of a chimney fire. These images reminded me of my days working at the Idaho Statesman, where an editor of ours had just finished writing a story on the importance of having chimneys swept and cleaned. Unfortunately he failed to heed his own advice, and had a chimney fire that nearly burned down his own home.

It's also important to have heaters inspected and NEVER use an extension cord on a portable heater. The saddest story I ever covered involved a man who went to work and left his family home sleeping. A fire started from an overloaded extension cord to an electric heater. It burned down his house and killed his wife and 7 or 8 children--a tragedy that could so easily have been prevented. Don’t leave heaters unattended and be sure they are on a nonflammable surface with no papers or other flammable materials nearby.

(Nick Schuler)

SDG&E will do free home heater inspections for safety's sake. It's also wise to invest in carbon monoxide detectors. Why is this important? My grandmother suffered brain damage from carbon monoxide poisoning due to a faulty portable heater. She was never the same again. Take it from a voice of experience-scrimping on safety is NOT worth the savings.

Yes, the economy is tight. But it's penny-wise, pound foolish to scrimp on these important safety measures and risk losing your home and loved ones.

One positive note: Thankfully the home shown in these photos was saved, albeit with major damage, thanks to a swift and aggressive response by Valley Center Fire Department, CAL FIRE, Rincon Reservation Fire Department, San Pasqual Reservation Fire Department, Oceanside Fire Department (Breathing Support), San Diego Sheriff's Department, and the American Red Cross. Residents were home at the time. If not for our brave and valiant firefighters, this could have been a far worse tragedy. Please don't let this happen to you or someone that you love!

Have a safe and peaceful New Year,

Miriam Raftery, Editor

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