Play it safe when using a space heater

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV) Winter is here and along with it comes the bitterly cold temperatures and higher heating bills. Sometimes people dial down their central heating systems and resort to using space heaters. Did you know half of all home heating fires occur during the months of December, January, and February?

In 2011, both portable and stationary space heaters accounted for 33% of home heating fires and 81% of home heating fire deaths throughout the United States.

Placing things that can burn too close to heating equipment or placing heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, papers, a mattress, or bedding, was the leading factor contributing to ignition in fatal home heating fires and accounted for more than half of home heating fire deaths.

State Fire Marshal Richard Miller, area fire departments and E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire Safety want to remind you of some important tips to keep you and your family safe when using a space heater:

  • Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet from all heat sources including fireplaces, wood stoves, radiators, space heaters or candles.
  • Never use an oven to heat your home.
  • Turn space heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional.
  • Inspect electrical cords and wall outlets for damage.
  • Plug heaters directly into wall outlets and avoid using extension cords.  Light duty extension cords used with high wattage appliances, such as space heaters, may overheat and cause a fire.
  • Choose space heaters that turn off automatically if they tip over.
  • Only purchase and use space heaters that have the label of a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
  • If you or someone you know is having difficulty paying a heating bill during the months of November through March, contact your local utility or call 2-1-1 to determine eligibility for a Winter Protection Plan or financial assistance and avoid a service shut off.

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