Use Space Heaters to Stay Warm, But Do It Safely

By: Leah Uko

OMAHA (KPTM) - As comforting as the warmth from space heaters is, they've proven to be quite dangerous. Nebraska and western Iowa have seen a number of house fires recently and auxiliary heaters, specifically space heaters have been pointed out as the reason behind more than a few.

On December 6th near 35th Avenue and Spaulding Street, an adult and eight children were home when a smoke detector alerted them of a fire. Everyone was able to escape the ranch-style home. Fire fighters said the fire appeared to be a result of flammable materials being too close to a space heater.

On December 11th near 36th and Drexel streets, it was found that a space heater came into contact with flammable materials that started a fire. A man was taken to the hospital to be treated for fire related injuries.

On December 18th, a mother's 3-month-old boy and 3-year-old boy died in a mobile home fire near 129th and West Maple Road. A space heater was determined as the cause of the fire. Investigators found that a smoke alarm was installed in the home, but was not working properly.

Intermin Fire Marshall with Council Bluffs Fire Department, Curtis McKeon said people should stay warm in their homes, but to do it safely by applying specific tips.

"Statistics don't seem to change. Building codes have changed, fire codes have changed, but our fatality rates remain the same. The one factor that doesn't change is the human factor," McKeon continued. "We just got to start being more careful. We've got to make sure more people are educated and we have to make sure they have the means to take care of themselves."

Tip from the Association of Home Appliance Manufactures for proper use and care of portable air heaters include:

Read the manufacturer's instructions and warning labels before using any portable electric air heater.

Keep flammable materials away from heater.

Use indoor heaters indoors and outdoor heaters outdoors. A fire or shock hazard may result if ignored.

Check periodically for secure plug and outlet fit. If a plug does not fit snugly into an outlet, it may need to be replaced.

If you are not using the heater unplug it.

Keep the heater at least three feet away from objects such as curtains, bedding and furniture.

Put the heater on a flat surface.

Keep heaters away from children. The surfaces get hot and can burn the skin.

Place cords on top of rugs and floors--not underneath.

Do not use extension cords.

McKeon also added that people should not go to sleep with a space heater turned on.

Red Cross said since December 1, 2013 Nebraska/SW Region responded to more than 60 home fires and assisted more than 200 people with food, clothing, shelter and other care based upon their needs. The causes of these fires were not attributed to space heaters.