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Furnace motor goes bad inside local credit union

We are heading into cooler temperatures and the Idaho Falls Fire Department wants to remind people to check their heating appliances and make sure they are safe to use before this winter season.

This comes after firefighters were dispatched to a structure fire at ISU Credit Union located on 1200 West Fremont Avenue and 1400 North Presto Street Wednesday morning. Division Chief of Training Jeff Parsons confirmed that there wasn’t a fire but instead a motor located inside of a furnace went bad causing smoke.

“When we arrived there was a light haze of smoke, after investigating we determined it was caused by a furnace motor burning up,” Parsons said.

ISU Credit Union Manager Laura Hall said she arrived at the branch around 9 a.m. and when she entered the building she smelled smoke.

“We saw it coming out of the vents and so we called 911, it ended up being a furnace problem. I am thankful for the fast response time, the fire department and the police took care of it quickly,” Hall said.

Hall and another employee were asked to evacuate the building while firefighters investigated the cause. No one was injured.

The bank did sustain some smoke damage but the doors were propped open to let fresh air in.

“We are open and everything is back to normal. Our maintenance man is on his way to check the furnace,” Hall said.

Idaho Falls Fire Department Battalion Chief Cody Anderson said it’s common for firefighters to respond to situations like these during this time of year.

“Because a furnace sits all summer long and doesn’t get used, it can build up dust and the first time you fire it up, there can be a little bit of a smoking problem. This furnace particularly malfunctioned and tripped a breaker,” Anderson said.

He added, “It’s not a bad idea to have your furnace checked by a professional and get it serviced before you fire it up. Just make sure it’s safe.”

First Call Jewel HVAC Manager Tim Pulsipher said today’s furnaces do an amazing job at simultaneously keeping homes safe and warm, but just like anything else they need to be maintained.

All manufacturers recommend equipment be checked once a year by a professional, Pulsipher said.”One of the first things we do is check out the motor in a furnace and we go through everything and make sure its working the way it should. Just because something turns on and works, doesn’t mean its working properly,” Pulsipher said.

He recommends changing air filters when its dirty, keep the area around your furnace clear, testing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and scheduling annual tune-ups.

“We’ll look for any problems like a cracked heat exchanger or frayed electrical wires that could lead to safety hazards in your home. That’s why a tune-up is essential if you want to have the peace-of-mind that your furnace will run safely all winter long,” Pulsipher said.

Idaho Falls Division Chief Fire Marshall Scott Grimmett said he’s seen issues in the past with furnaces that haven’t had any maintenance.

“Filters that haven’t been changed, are running poorly and people try to fix it themselves. The big hazard is carbon monoxide. Visual inspections are great preventative maintenance,” Grimmett said.

The Idaho Falls Fire Department will be hosting a “Fire Prevention Community Block Party” on Oct. 12. From 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The American Red Cross and the Idaho National Laboratory will sponsor the event.

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