Firefighters warn of space heater fire danger

Published: Feb. 10, 2012 at 10:39 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 20, 2012 at 10:39 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The National Fire Protection Association says nearly 500 people died nationwide in fires called by space heaters.  If you use one of these devices, Columbia Fire Department wants you to use them safely this weekend.

Fire investigators believe two recent deadly fires in the midlands were caused by portable heaters.

As the temperatures drop this weekend, firefighters encourage residents to be safe.

Early Wednesday morning, firefighters say the heat from a space heater set a chair on fire inside a home on Morninglo lane in Richland County.

67-year-old Cathleen Dowdeswell was asleep in the room and died.

Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins says if you must have a space heater, don't leave them on overnight, and keep them away from children and pets.

"Normally people have them too close to things that can burn, keep them three feet away," said Jenkins. "We've seen where people have put clothes on top to dry them."

Cayce Public Safety officers say a kerosene heater caused a deadly fire on Duncan Court last week.  They say Robert Seymour was refueling the heater while it was still on.

Firefighters say you should turn it off and refuel outside the home.

"Anything can happen," said Jenkins.  "I realize people want to save money but the main thing is to save your life."

Firefighters hope you will keep these deadly lessons in mind this winter.

Chief Jenkins says by following some basic fire safety precautions and making small modifications, you can greatly reduce the risk of home heating fires.

  • All heaters need space. Keep things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
  • Use heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer's instruction. Have a qualified professional install the equipment.
  • Make sure all fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.  CO poisoning can cause illness and even death.
  • Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms inside your home to provide early warning of carbon monoxide.
  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional.
  • Turn space heaters off when you leave a room or go to sleep.
  • Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.
  • Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations, and flammable materials.
  • Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces. Leave glass doors open while burning a fire.
  • Keep air inlets on wood stoves open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces. Otherwise you may cause creosote buildup that could lead to a chimney fire.

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