Space heater dangers listed
It happens every winter. The weather turns cold and people turn on the space heater to warm up. There's always someone who inadvertently starts a fire by putting the heater too close to the furniture or draperies. Then there are the people who end up having fires because the heater is left on all night or the appliance tips over.
The nonprofit safety advocate National Fire Protection Association says heating devices are the leading cause of fires in the home during December, January and February.
In 2001, there were 54,900 heating equipment-related home fires in the United States, 220 civilian deaths, 1,120 civilian injuries and $502 million in direct property damage.
Here in Lansing there have been heating-related fires in the past years. But these fires don't have to happen. Most fires with space heaters are preventable if key safety measures are followed. To avoid problems, keep space heaters (both portable and fixed) at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn, including furnishings, bedding and clothing. Turn the heater off when you leave the room or go to sleep.
Wood stoves and fireplaces also need special care. If you're buying a new unit, make sure a qualified technician does the installation. If the appliance already is installed, have it checked to make sure the installation was done properly.
Most fires in wood stoves, fireplaces, and chimneys occur because of a lack of regular cleaning, leading to the buildup of creosote, the residue of unburned fuel.
Heating devices should be inspected and cleaned on a regular basis according to the manufacturer's instructions. Use only seasoned hardwood and don't burn trash in a fireplace because the fire could burn out of control.
Install carbon monoxide alarms in your home to provide you with an early warning if the gas is accumulating.
- Rick Huhn is fire chief of Leavenworth County Fire District No. 1.