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Wheeling Fire Department Offers Tips for Staying Both Warm and Safe

Photo by Scott McCloskey Capt. Deric Jamison of the Wheeling Fire Department displays a smoke detector and the 3-foot minimum safety distance a space heater should be kept away from household items that can burn.

With January and February being peak months for home heating fires, local and national fire safety officials are reminding the public of the hazards associated with the use of portable space heaters.

While portable space heaters can help add a little extra heat to a room during the colder months, Capt. Deric Jamison of the Wheeling Fire Department and the National Fire Protection Association remind the public that space heaters do present potential fire hazards and must be used with caution.

Heating equipment is the second-leading cause of U.S. home fires and the third-leading cause of home fire deaths, according to the NFPA. Fifty-three percent of all home heating fire deaths result from fires that began when heating equipment was too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding. Between 2011 and 2015, portable and stationary space heaters accounted for more than two of every five U.S. home heating fires and five out of six home heating fire deaths.

Jamison said any space heaters (electric or kerosene) should be placed a minimum of 3 feet away from anything that can burn and must be turned off when unattended.

“January and February are the peak months for fires caused by heating equipment, so we want to remind people to be extra cautious if they are using a space heater,” Jamison said “Space heaters need to be plugged directly into a wall outlet and never into an extension cord or power strip.”

He said if your are using a kerosene heater or any type of fuel-fired heating appliance, there should be a carbon monoxide detector in your home as well. In addition, Jamison said it is always extremely important to keep working smoke alarms in your home.

“You’re twice as likely to survive a fire if you have working smoke detectors,” Jamison noted.

He said it is also important to remember that any heating equipment in the home should be independently lab tested and should be serviced by a licensed technician.

Other safety tips offered by the NFPA include:

∫ Keep children and pets well away from space heaters at all times and remember that space heaters should never be left unattended.

∫ Place space heaters on a solid flat surface.

∫ Make sure the space heater has an auto shut-off in the event the heater tips over.

∫ Keep space heaters away from foot traffic and exits.

∫ Space heaters should always be turned off and unplugged when you leave the room or go to bed.

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