Using a space heater? There's something else you should be using... caution

The colder months cause a spike in house fires.  To keep gas bills down in the winter, a lot of people turn to things like electric heaters.  

But, staying warm in the winter sometimes comes at a cost, and that's not just the heating bill.  Ronald Hawryliw, of Fairfield Hose Company, tells us, "If your house catches on fire or somebody gets sick from carbon monoxide poisoning that changes your life and everything that goes along with it."

Home fires kill more people in the United States than any natural disaster and local fire departments say they see a spike almost every winter.  That's why the American Red Cross is urging people to be careful from November through March.

Pam Masi, Red Cross Executive Director, says, "Hopefully it won't be a really vicious winter. The colder the temperatures seem to be allocated to more fires."

Experts say sometimes preventing a fire comes down to thinking twice about the placement of your items.  Masi says, "Anything left unattended can really cause the spike in fires."  These items can be candles, ovens, stovetops... but one of the most dangerous appliances to look for are room heaters.  Experts say leaving them on for too long or putting them near furniture is an accident waiting to happen and if you're using a space heater, it should be plugged into the wall directly.

The Fairfield Hose Company says extension cords cause a bulk of the problems. Hawryliw says, "They can short out because they overheat or else they'll run them underneath rugs, underneath furniture and when they do that they're risking the chance that they could have a fire based on that." 

Masi says it's crucial every household has the proper amount of working smoke detectors.  The Red Cross can come assess your home to find out how many you need as a free service. 

And, you can check out these heating safety tips from the National Fire Protection Association:

Safety Tip

Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths. Half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January, and February. Some simple steps can prevent most heating-related fires from happening.

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
  • Test smoke alarms at least once a month.

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