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Space heaters dangerous if not used correctly

Leave at least 1 yard of space around heater

POSTED: January 11, 2013 11:59 p.m.

The past three major fires in Hall County have been caused by space heater misuse, Hall County Fire Chief David Kimbrell said.

And balmy January temperatures don’t help the situation, he noted.

“Sometimes this weather is the worst for space heaters because they use that little space heater to heat up that area where they’re sitting, instead of warming up your whole house in the significant cold weather,” he said.

Space heaters plugged into extension cords can sometimes overload circuits, causing problems. Kimbrell said he uses space heaters, too, but the important thing is to power them correctly.

“If I’m in my office at home working or something, I’ll turn on the little space heater momentarily while I’m in there, instead of heating up the whole house, or in the mornings getting up to shower,” he said.

He recommends plugging the heater directly into an outlet, not into a surge protector and especially not into cheap two-pronged extension cords.

“They’re not made for something like a heater, and the load that a heavy heater pulls,” he said.

He added that there should be a radius of at least a yard of empty space surrounding the heater.

“Put a yard stick, spin it all the way around. Three feet,” he said.

It’s also important to have smoke alarms for when something does go wrong with a heater, or anything else that could cause a fire.

“Medical studies show that basically your nose is asleep for the most part, so that’s why smoke alarms are so important,” he said. “Your ears are still hearing but your nose is not smelling.”

Although building codes require a smoke alarm in every residence, some are neglected, he said.

“A lot of residences don’t have them; a lot of rental properties don’t have them because they’re there when they’re rented, and then the occupants sometimes take them down, remove the batteries, for different things,” he said.

“They are required, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be intact.”

Carbon monoxide can also be an issue during the winter, he said.

“Anything that burns — coal, oil, gas, anything that has a flame to it — can cause carbon monoxide,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about that in a totally electric home, unless you have a car in the garage.

“But any of those if they’re not properly maintained, or something’s wrong with them, could cause carbon monoxide, and that happens quite a bit,” he said.


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