Space heaters account for 85% of associated fire deaths. With colder weather setting in, the space heater usage goes up, and so does the fire risk.
“This time of year is the busiest time of year for fire departments,” said Chief Richard Stirts, with the Logan-Marshfield Fire Department.
The National Fire Protection agency found nationwide, space heaters account for 2 out of 5 fires. It is the second leading cause of home fires, and the third leading cause of fire related deaths.
While older heaters tend to pose the biggest threat, new ones can be dangerous if some common mistakes are made.
“The space heaters are safe, it’s how we apply them to the use in our home,” Stirts said.
Biggest mistake made, is plugging heaters into extension cords
“Running that element overtime heats that extension cord up, and if there is a rug or clothing something like that over it, it tends to start a fire,” Stirts said.
Plug heaters into the wall instead. Be wary of what is around them. More than half of heater fire deaths occurred when there was not a clear space around them.
“Don’t have it around anything combustible of course. Your curtains or maybe a delicate throw rug. Keep it on a hard surface,” Bob Bowman, with Westlake Ace Hardware, said.
Choose a heater with an automatic shutoff time, in case you forget.
“Don’t use it as a heater to run all night, it’s to keep you warm while you’re in a certain situation,” Bowman said.
Finally, never use them as your sole heat source. Heaters are not meant to heat up the entire house. This will actually cause your electric bill to increase.
As another caution, never plug multiple heaters into the same outlets. This also increases fire risk, and increases the chance of short circuits.
If you need a heater in your bathroom, make sure you buy one that specifically states it is for the bathroom. Other heaters are unable to stand the humidity from showers, and can lead to risk of electric shock.
Stirts said heaters, or outside heat lamps, are often used to keep outdoor pet enclosures warm. He warns against this. Saying the animals may knock over the heater, posing a risk for your pet, and your home.
Biggest recommendation is to read the safety features on the packaging, and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Brochures and information on heating safely in the home: https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/heating.html
Top Fire Causes and statistics with heating sources: https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire-causes-and-risks/Top-fire-causes/Heating
Fire fatalities caused by heating sources: https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Publications-and-media/Press-Room/News-releases/2018/Space-heaters-account-for-43-percent-of-US-home-heating-fires-and-85-percent-of-associated-deaths