JEFFERSON CITY – After a series of fires in Missouri in which seven people died in five days, Department of Public Safety Director Daniel Isom is cautioning the public to understand the potential dangers posed by improperly used portable heaters and alternative heating devices during cold weather.
“While this next week will be warmer, Missouri hasn’t seen the last of the cold weather this winter and people need to be extra careful when using space heaters, which can be deadly if used improperly,” Director Isom said. “I urge the public to understand the dangers these devices pose, and to closely follow the necessary precautions anytime they are used, especially around children and at night when people are sleeping.”
Space heaters account for about one-third of home heating fires and 80 percent of home heating fire deaths annually, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Since Sunday, Feb. 1, at least seven people have died and six have been injured in Missouri fires in which portable heaters or unconventional heating devices are suspected to have been the cause. The Missouri Division of Fire Safety is investigating two of these fires:
· Two adults and three children suffered smoke inhalation in a house fire in St. Mary, Mo. and were transported to hospitals early today. The Division of Fire Safety investigation determined the fire originated in a second story bedroom in the area of a propane tank equipped with a heating element.
· Two children, ages eight and 10, and one adult, age 47, died as a result of a house fire in Poplar Bluff early on Sunday, Feb. 1. The Division of Fire Safety investigation determined the fire originated in the living room in an area where there were both electric and propane space heaters. The investigation showed the furnace in the house was not working. Another adult, age 46, remains hospitalized.
Isom urged the public to follow these safety precautions whenever heating equipment is used:
· Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment. The three-foot safety zone includes furniture, drapes, and electronics – anything that can burn.
· Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
- Turn off portable heaters whenever leaving the room or going to bed.
- Do not overload extension cords or outlets. Many extension cords and power strips are not designed to handle the load of an electric heater. Never place an electrical cord under a rug.
- Never use an oven or other cooking devices to heat your home.
· Make sure your home has working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms by testing them monthly.
In addition to the fires being investigated by the Division of Fire Safety, the University City Fire Department is investigating a house fire that killed two children and a grandmother on Wednesday night, Feb. 4. An electric space heater is the suspected cause. The St. Louis Fire Department is investigating a house fire that killed a man Thursday morning, Feb. 5. Hot plates that were used to heat the residence are the suspected cause.
(Courtesy of Department of Public Safety)