Severe winter conditions are still looming over parts of the United States, and many people are using space heaters to keep themselves warm. However, fire experts are concerned over potential fire hazard from space heaters.
Space heaters are often used to warm small enclosed places, and they are fueled using electricity, natural gas, oil, wood or propane. Electric heaters are the most commonly used type of heater.
Even though space heaters are good in providing warmth in severe winters, they can be hazardous if not used properly.
Many incidents of fire during the winter months are caused by space heaters. The U.S. Fire Administration reveals that more than 50,000 heating fires on average each year in residential buildings were reported between 2008 and 2010. These fires resulted in about 575 injuries and 150 deaths. The fires also resulted in the loss of $326 million worth of property.
"Space heaters cause one-third of home heating fires and four out of five home heating fires deaths," stated the U.S. Fire Administration.
Fire experts also suggest that heating is also the second leading cause of fire in residential buildings, just after cooking.
Space heaters were believed to be the cause of eight deaths in Missouri in the month of February this year.
Jim Furgerson, fire chief in Joplin, said that there are usually two or three space heater fires reported during the winter season, but none have been reported so far this year.
"Not all space heaters are bad," said Furgerson. "There are some older ones that I might not recommend using all the time. Because newer space heaters out there have an anti-tip device. If they fall over, they automatically shut off. That's just an added safety feature."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends some safety tips for users of space heaters in order to avoid fire.
There should be a distance of at least three feet between a space heater and things that may catch fire, such as curtains, furniture, drapes, bedding and more.
Space heaters should never be placed near water or on top of furniture. Children should never be left unattended in a place where space heaters are being used. The cord of a space heater should be placed in a way that avoids tripping. However, space heater cords should not be placed under rugs or carpets.
In case a space heater is damaged, it should not be used at all. People should also avoid using extension cords to power a space heater.