Fire, police advise caution as hard-freeze warning issued

The Biloxi Fire Department is reminding residents to take steps to minimize the risk of house fires in the wake of today’s National Weather Service announcement of a hard freeze watch from late Thursday night through Friday morning.

A hard freeze watch means that temperatures could remain below 26 degrees for four or more hours. “These conditions,” the weather service said, “will kill sensitive outdoor vegetation, harm outdoor pets and have the potential to cause exposed water pipes to burst.”

Those venturing outdoors are advised to wear some type of head cover and several layers of clothing for warmth.

Biloxi Police Chief Bruce Dunagan says that police officers will be on the look out for distressed individuals while patrolling the streets of Biloxi over the next couple of nights.

“We always do keep an eye out for people who may be in trouble, particularly this time of year,” Dunagan said, “and we help them find shelter from the cold.”

Meantime, the fire department is advising caution and common sense.

“Misuse of electric space heaters is the No. 1 cause of residential fires in winter months,” said Mark Dronet, a deputy fire chief who heads Biloxi’s Fire Prevention Division.

“Space heaters need to be kept three feet away from all combustibles, and you should buy only those space heaters that are UL-approved and equipped with a safety switch that will automatically turn off the unit if it turns over.

“And, by all means, never leave a space heater unattended. Always turn them off, and, to be safe, unplug them when they’re not in use.”

Dronet said residents should avoid burning candles for warmth, but those who insist on using candles should also use a candle holder.

Among the other tips:

— All filters on heating units should be thoroughly cleaned before use.

— Gas-powered heating units should be serviced once a year by a certified technician, and homes using a gas-powered heater should be equipped with a carbon-monoxide detector.

— Fireplaces should be thoroughly cleaned by a chimney sweep before use, and residents should never burn pine in their fireplaces to avoid a build up of creosote in their chimney.

More info online

— To see winter safety tips from the Biloxi Fire Department, click here.

— To read the hard freeze warning from the National Weather Service, click here.