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Cold weather brings safety issues for residents

Though the anticipated snowfall expected to hit southern Nevada this week did not come to pass, there is still much to be mindful of as temperatures begin to plummet beginning this weekend.

Nighttime lows are expected to dip into the mid-to-upper 20’s which prompted Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Chief Scott Lewis to issue warnings for local residents hoping to stave off the arctic blast.

Lewis said families need to be aware of the dangers related to keeping a home warm when faced with brutal cold weather.

“The things we’re running into right now is the misuse of space heaters, overloaded electrical circuits are always an issue,” Lewis cautioned. “People also using alternate means to heat their homes such as opening their stove or oven and leaving them unattended.”

Lewis also noted that hastily installed heating appliances can also pose hazards for homeowners.

“Improperly installed units such as wood-burning stoves and combustible materials placed too close to them,” he said. “Animals can also possibly knock them over or get in the way of them, which can cause serious burns to them.”

Lewis also noted that attention should be paid to the valley’s the elderly population during frigid conditions.

“With weather such as this, we see a lot of fall victims,” he said. “You want to keep an eye on your elderly neighbors because we are finding that people are falling and being down for a couple of days before someone finds them or they can work their way to call for help. If they fall outdoors, especially with these cold temperatures, they may not have a survival event even though the fall itself was survivable.”

Additionally, the fire chief warned about dangers of hypothermia, where in extreme instances, can prove to be lethal.

Lewis said when the body is exposed to very cold temperatures, it begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced.

The result is acute hypothermia.

“Children and seniors are most susceptible to that condition,” he said. “Blood circulation and blood flow are adversely affected. “When your body temperature is too low, it also affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. It makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening. It’s a very serious issue.”

Lewis also advised residents to keep the family car stocked with supplies and maintained regularly to avoid potentially life-threatening situations in the event of a breakdown.

Additionally, he noted the importance of properly preparing homes for the winter season, which includes the thorough cleaning of chimneys.

“It’s a good time to get the chimney swept, and when using the fireplace, be sure that the flue pipe is not only in an open position, but make sure it’s operating as it’s intended and there’s no obstructions in pipe. You also want make sure that the very top of the chimney is not obstructed in any way” he said.

After determining the chimney is in good operating condition, the fire chief said homeowners should burn materials that are exclusively designed for residential fireplaces.

“Only natural hardwood should be used as fuel,” he said. “You should not use processed woods because they contain materials that could be hazardous to your health.”

As always during cold snaps, frozen pipes can create many problems for homeowners.

Insulation, Lewis said, is a simple solution to avoid waking up to no running water inside the house or having a geyser suddenly pop up in the backyard.

“You can purchase insulation for well pumps locally,” he said. “We’ve seen a number of fires for heat lamps, but you have to be very careful.”

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