© Hotshot Images by AKVNEWS/Paul R. Lowes/Staff Photographer
Alle-Kiski Valley, Pa – Nearly every day there’s a house fire to report in our local communities. Users of space heaters should be keenly aware of the potential fire hazards space heaters can pose.
One of the most dangerous types of electrical space heaters still in use are the kind that continue to run even when tipped over. When these space heaters tip over and the protective screen surface contacts a carpet, floor or other combustible item, the risk for fire nearly becomes a certainty.
Two recent fires hit residential homes in the New Kensington area and both were caused by space heaters. The first fire occurred in Parnassus, where a family dog was killed after smoke filled the residence from an oil filled space heater sitting to close to combustible materials. The other fire occurred November 17, in Kinloch and was caused by an electric heater explosion. Fortunately, no one was hurt in that fire. In Butler City almost a year ago, a 100 year old mansion burned to nearly a total loss after a space heater on the second floor near a window malfunctioned. Space heaters, whether portable or stationary, accounted for one-third (33%) of home heating fires and four out of five (81%) of home heating fire deaths.
Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths and half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January, and February.
Here are some simple steps that can help prevent most heating-related fires from happening.
*Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
*Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
*Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
*Have a three-foot “kid-free and pet free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
*Never use your oven to heat your home.
Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional. Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home. Test smoke alarms monthly.
*****Here are some escape route tips for your family.
Fire can spread rapidly through your home, leaving you as little as one or two minutes to escape safely once the alarm sounds. Pull together everyone in your household and make a plan. Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes. Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of your home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors. Also, mark the location of each smoke alarm. This is a great way to get children involved in fire safety in a non-threatening way.
Consumers are urged to find more information on websites like Consumer Reports or visit the Underwriters Laboratories. “UL is a world leader in product safety testing and certification. For more than 100 years, manufacturers have had their merchandise evaluated and tested for safety risks by our independent, third-party safety certification organization. Last year alone, approximately 14 billion products with the UL Mark entered the global marketplace.”
The best advice to give about space heaters – never leave them operational while unattended.