Fireplace makers are making changes for safety

March 5, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
When the next winter storm hits the Valley, dropping temperatures will drive up the use of heaters and gas fireplaces. But comfort from the cold can become a danger for children, in your own home.

Busy Fresno mom, Aubrey Young has her hands full. With two kids in school during the day and three little ones at home, she has to make sure they have safe places to play since she can't be everywhere at once.

The Young's home has a gas fireplace, but because there are little hands everywhere, Aubrey rarely fires it up. But Aubrey hears sad stories from her husband, Quin, a Fresno pediatrician.

"A child had come into his office and the parents had turned on the gas fireplace," said Aubrey. "They were watching the child but didn't realize the child had put both hands on the glass."

A safety study says since 1999, more than 2,000 children nationwide, have been burned by contact with the hot, glass doors of gas fireplaces that can reach up to 500 degrees.

Tom Bladau, owner of Agape Fireplaces in Clovis, says one of the first questions his customers ask him, is about the heated glass.

Tom says he shows safety screens to customers with children, but in two years, the industry rules will become stricter on protecting people, especially children from the hot surface.

"2015, safety barriers are going to be required on all Hearth Heating Products," said Tom Bladau. "Most of the manufacturers have safety barriers as an option."

Barriers still allow heat from the fireplace to warm a room, but can prevent a trip to the hospital.

The Peters Burn Center at CRMC sees about 306 injuries a year from wood burning stoves and gas fireplaces.

Less than one second of contact with a glass front that's 5-600 degrees can result in lifelong injuries.

Dr. William Dominic, Director of the Leon S Peters Burn Center at Community Regional Medical Center in Downtown Fresno, praises the fireplace industry's move toward better safety measures.

"With that screen, it goes a long way in protecting children from sustaining potentially life-altering burns," said Dr. William Dominic. "They could end up with permanent disabilities from this type of burn."

So at least for now, while the kids are little, the gas fireplace will stay cold in the Young family's home, but Aubrey is glad to know, fireplace makers are making changes.

"You can never be too careful with kids running around and playing," said Aubrey. "Even if you're watching them."


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