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Gainesville house fire sparks safety advisory

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Kara Godwin fell asleep around midnight to the sight of the last bit of flames dying down in her fireplace.

She awoke nearly four hours later to flashing red lights coming through the windows and aggressive banging on her door.

Gainesville firefighters arrived at her home in the 1900 block of Northwest 14th Avenue after a neighbor called in a large fire coming from the house’s roof, according to a news release from Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Lane.

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Godwin safely left her house. GFR had the fire under control within 10 minutes, according to the release.

“I was completely stunned, and just stood there in the cold and watched the firemen do their amazing work and get the fire out,” she said.

The Gainesville homeowner had only been living in the house for two months. She was still in the process of unpacking, she said.

There were also two house fires in Bradenton and Orlando on Friday, each leaving a person dead. The causes of the fires are still being investigated.

With January being the peak period for heating-related house fires, Lane said he encourages people to get their fireplaces cleaned and inspected annually — especially in cold weather when they’re used frequently.

Fireplaces aren’t the only heating implements causing trouble this time of year — if a kerosene or space heater hasn’t been serviced recently or is improperly tuned, it can produce deadly carbon monoxide, GFR Lt. Pat West said.

“It’s not uncommon at all for us to go out for either activated carbon monoxide alarms or for people experiencing signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning,” he said.

Carbon monoxide poisoning shows flu-like symptoms, West said, such as headache, nausea and feeling lightheaded.

West said kerosene heaters in particular can produce carbon monoxide due to incomplete combustion, so it’s important to keep a few windows open to ensure proper ventilation.

Using clean kerosene and a clean wick also helps cut down on carbon monoxide emissions.

“We always caution folks to have their heater or gas-fired furnaces serviced on a regular basis,” West said.

Placement of heaters also needs to be taken into account, he said. Heaters should be placed far away from anything that can catch on fire once hot enough, like blankets and furniture.

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