Using a space heater to stay warm? Safety tips to prevent a house fire

The weather is getting colder and colder. Advice on space heater safety from local officials on keeping your home safe from a potential house fire.

PASCO, Wash. — The weather is getting cold outside. Instead of bumping up the heater, people might be thinking about setting up a portable space heater. It’s a good way to get a space warm quickly, but officials are warning us to use them safely.

To prevent a potential house fire, there are some things to think about before you plug in.

We went to two people who know space heaters: Charlie Grigg, who sells them, and Ben Shearer with the Pasco Fire Department.

The first piece of advice they’re both sharing is to keep some distance between the space heater and any objects.

“They need clearance; three feet of space around them to make them work properly,” said Shearer.

“Next to a curtain, that just heats up and the curtain is gonna catch on fire. So, you just want to have a radius around the heater so that it doesn’t light anything else on fire,” said Grigg.

They’re also advising to be cautious when plugging it in.

“You want to make sure they’re plugged directly into the wall, and that way you’re not having any overheat problems with extension cords, no one’s tripping over the cord,” said Shearer.

Reaching high heats, extension cords, power strips and adapters are often not built to handle the level of power needed. They’re also saying not to plug other electronic devices into that outlet.

When using your portable heater, officials also want to add to turn it off when you’re not watching it.

“Making sure you unplug it when you leave, especially at night. If you leave your home, again, make sure they’re often unplugged, make sure nothing happens,” Shearer explained.

Newer safety features

Some portable heaters have safety features, which shuts it off when it tips over, or if it starts to overheat.

“You want to make sure you have a newer one that has the tip-over safety and the overheat features to it,” suggested Shearer.

However, not all heaters have those features.

“If you’re talking about a $19 heater, again, it’s electric wires heating up in it. You got to be more careful with those,” said Grigg.

It’s also important to keep an eye on your kids or pets. They could knock your space heater over, or get a bit too close and get injured.

As a precaution, and a major safety feature, don’t forget to check on your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

“That way you can be warned way ahead of time before anybody’s gonna get sick, that there’s a problem going on,” said Shearer.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating equipment, like portable space heaters, is the leading cause of death in home fires.

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