Cold weather months bring higher fire safety awareness - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Cold weather months bring higher fire safety awareness

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

A space heater that keeps you warm during the winter could also cost you your life if you're not careful. In a small room with blankets, it's fuel for a fire.

"People have a habit of putting clothes on top of a space heater to dry them and then forget about them, and that causes fires," said Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins.

How the heaters are plugged in can also be a danger.

"These space heaters do pull a lot of current, and the cord on it can get pretty hot as well, so you just want to make sure you plug it directly into an outlet," said Jenkins.

Even your chimney can cause a fire. If not maintained and inspected regularly, it could put your home at risk for a fire.

"People have done repairs on chimneys, and, you know, just didn't do it right, and it had cracks in the bricks and the wood behind those bricks would catch on fire," said Jenkins.

Firefighters argue most of these fires are preventable. They recently cited West Avenue Apartments for using space heaters when problems erupted with the central heat. Firefighters issued 40 citations this past weekend and continue to post two firefighters on fire watch.

"We're providing a fire watch from about 8:00 in the evening until the next morning around 8:00 to make sure that the folks out there are safe," said Jenkins.

Everyone must move out by January 4th. An architect will evaluate to see if repairs can be made. Those familiar with space heaters say there are some safer alternatives, like the new infrared heaters.

"If you bump into one of these or it gets tipped over it will automatically cut itself off, but it also runs a lot cooler to the touch and the way its set up it can not ignite anything that's placed in front of it or beside or even on top of the heater," said Kelvyn Woods, a manager at a local True Value Hardware Store.

Still they should never be left unattended or remain on when you go to sleep.  Firefighters fear many won't heed the warnings, joining the some 57,000 homes a year that fall victim to a home heating fire.

Copyright 2012 WIS. All rights reserved.

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