PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Thousands of people in the Portland metro area are without power Thursday and are trying to stay warm in their homes in sub-freezing temperatures. 

In situations like this, people start to get desperate. Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue said crews responded to a couple chimney fires Thursday morning. People have been trying to use their fireplaces, but haven’t properly had their chimneys cleaned before using them. 

“People lose power, they have a fireplace in their apartment or their home that they haven’t used in years, and so they decided to light it and it causes some issues,” explained Captain Dan Mitchael from TVF&R’s Station 53. 

In addition to telling people to not use fireplaces that haven’t been maintained, Mitchael said there are several other things people should avoid doing when the power goes out. 

He’s heard of people trying to use their ovens or stoves to heat their homes. Some people bring outdoor barbecues inside or propane stoves inside to use them. Some people bring in gas-powered generators. 

These can all be very dangerous and can result in carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Even if people have carbon monoxide detectors in their homes, Mitchael said they shouldn’t take the risk. 

Space heaters can be another issue. Mitchael said it’s important to remember that items should always be kept at least 3 feet away from any heating source, that includes space heaters and fireplaces. 

Space heaters should also be plugged directly into the wall, not into an extension cord, surge protector, string of lights or anything else. 

In 2022, Mitchael said home heating fires contributed to 15% of all fires reported in the state. 

“Here in Tualatin Valley,  we’ve seen anything from space heaters catching blankets, bathrooms, towels on fire…  to fireplaces and people burning in those not opening the flue, or sparks coming out and igniting combustibles that are close,” Mitchael said. 

For anyone who is stuck at home without power, the safest thing to do is to bundle up; put on layers of clothing and blankets and warm footwear. 

TVF&R is not transporting people to warming shelters but it will help connect people with warming shelter resources in Washington County. 

Mitchael said the roads are slippery and TriMet is the safest way for people to get to a shelter if they need to. 

If people are stuck at home, Mitchael said now could be a good time to test their smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they’re working.