fire safety

Fire Safety Experts Warn of Improper Use of Space Heaters

NBC Universal, Inc.

Frigid temperatures across the Chicago area may result in the use of alternative heating methods like space heaters, but fire experts warn there are many potential dangers.

Operations Chief Rich Carter of the Elgin Fire Department said a space heater needs three feet of open space around it to avoid the possibility of igniting something on fire.

"Something else we’ll see is people will put their gloves or their boots or their shoes next to a space heater to warm them up," Carter said. "All of those things can absorb that heat and ignite and that’s why they need that three feet of space around it."

Carter also said people should not connect a space heater to an extension cord because it may overheat and start a fire.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 48,530 fires involving heating equipment per year from 2014 through 2018, accounting for 14% of all reported home fires and 19% of home-fire deaths. The NFPA also said these fires resulted in an annual average of 500 civilian deaths, 1,350 civilian injuries and $1.1 billion in direct property damage.

Carter said people should not use a gas stove top to warm their home because of the dangers posed by carbon monoxide.

“One of the most important things you can have is working smoke detectors and working carbon monoxide detectors so that if you fail to recognize a problem, hopefully that’s gonna recognize a problem and prevent you any harm,” Carter said.

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