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Authorities urge space heater caution this winter

Fire officials are warning families to take care with space heaters after one caused a fire that torched a Fort Madison, Iowa, home Thursday.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating equipment fires are the most common causes.

Between 2012 and 2016, these fires killed 490, injured 14 hundred and caused over one billion dollars of property damage.

Nearly half of those fires involved a space heater.

Home Depot Supervisor Jim Russell says preventing space heater fires starts with knowing the heater’s limits.

“A lot of people get in trouble where their heat goes out or they have trouble with their furnace,” Russell said. “They think they can heat their house with a space heater. You cannot, they’re not designed for that.”

Quincy Fire Department Lieutenant Justin Twaddle said that’s not the only thing people do.

“The other thing they do is they leave it on all the time, even when they leave the house or leave the room,” he said.

Twaddle said it’s an every-year occurrence.

“Probably in my 15 years, I could probably estimate we probably go on about three to four fires that are caused in the winter time,” he said.

Twaddle said many just cause property damage but that’s not always the case.

“Fatalities have happened because of space heaters,” he said.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, from 2012 to 2016, space heater fires accounted for nearly 90 percent of home heating equipment fires fatalities.

Twaddle said there are easy fixes.

“Space heaters need space, about three feet all around is what you want to make sure,” he said.

According to Russell, extension cords are a no-go.

Twaddle said the less you have between the heater and the outlet, the better.

“Some people will run things underneath them, extension cords and things like that. We don’t want to see that because we don’t want anymore house fires that start from improper use of space heaters.”

Blake Sammann

Blake Sammann is a reporter and weekend anchor at WGEM News.

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