Chief’s corner: Winter safety tips

Allen Riley / Fire Chief - OVFD
Allen Riley

Even though we are already in March, we are still dealing with a lot of snow and here are a few reminders to help keep you and your family safe through this wintery season.

Propane and Vents

Remember to keep your propane tanks, gas regulators and piping, as well as heater vents clear of snow during the winter months to avoid damage that could result in leaks.

Exposed gas lines, regulators and meters need to be cleared of any snow to avoid blocking vents and causing regulator malfunctions that can release gas vapor into a home or business. In addition, snow accumulation can snap lines at the tank resulting in release of gas vapor into the surrounding snow that can then find its way into a home and result in an explosion and fire. The Fire Department recommends keeping the area around propane tanks free of all snow accumulations allowing any possible gas vapor release to dissipate.

Residents who smell a strong, persistent odor of gas should immediately leave the structure. They should not use a telephone, flashlight, switch a light on or off, pull any plugs from outlets or light a match within the structure, should not start a vehicle in a garage or near a gas leak, or operate the garage door opener, which could ignite the gas and cause an explosion. Use a neighbor’s telephone, cell phone or phone away from the house to call 9-1-1 to report the emergency.

Carbon Monoxide

The risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning increases in the winter when home heating systems are running. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before ever having symptoms.

  • Change the batteries in your CO detector every six months. If you don’t have a battery-powered or battery back-up CO detector, buy one soon.
  • Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Keep vents and flues free of debris. Debris can block ventilation lines.
  • Never leave the motor running in a vehicle parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as a garage.
  • Never run a motor vehicle, generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine less than 20 feet from an open window, door, or vent where exhaust can vent into an enclosed area.
  • Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern, or portable camping stove inside a home, tent, or camper.
  • Never run a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage, or other enclosed structure, even if the doors or windows are open.
  • If you suspect CO poisoning, call 911 or a health care professional right away.

Avalanche Safety

Parts of our community are in Avalanche prone areas. You can keep yourselves informed through the Sierra Avalanche Center, an excellent resource for avalanche information, including advisory by elevation, current avalanche problems, conditions, observations and weather.  

Remember if skiing in the backcountry to always ski with a (trained and equipped) buddy, carry a beacon, shovel and probe and let someone know where you’re going and when to expect you back.

Adopt a Hydrant

During winter months, maintaining access to fire hydrants is very important.  It’s also a real challenge.  No complicated paperwork is required and you can do your bit for neighborhood fire safety under cover of darkness for anonymity or at high noon to earn the approval and gratitude of your neighbors. When digging out a hydrant, please keep in mind that we need at least 24” clearance in all directions from the center of the hydrant.

Notification Systems:

We continue to encourage people to sign up for all the emergency notifications for your specific area. Nixle is a tool many agencies use for communicating general information to our residents.  The texted information and link allow rapid and effective notification to your community – it’s easy to subscribe and equally easy to unsubscribe if you choose, simply text your zip code to 888777 on your phone – you’ll receive a confirmation text immediately.

In Placer County information is provided through PlacerAlert through the Placer County website at

Nevada County uses the CodeRED Emergency Alert system, go to Emergency Alerts | Nevada County, CA ( to sign up.  

El Dorado County also uses CodeRed, go to to sign up.

Incline Village (Washoe County, NV) uses CodeRed as well, go to Community Notification Enrollment (

City of South Lake Tahoe uses CivicReady, go to Public Signup ( Up for Notifications | South Lake Tahoe, CA – Official Website (

For Tahoe Douglas, go to Emergency Notification Center – Douglas County, Nevada (

These systems enable the local agencies to provide you with critical information quickly in a variety of situations, such as severe weather, unexpected road closures, missing persons and evacuations of buildings or neighborhoods.

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