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Fire Protection Agency warns of space heater dangers

February 1, 2009
Messenger News

Holding cold at bay got a lot easier after my sister made me a recliner quilt for Christmas.

It's got cute little farm animals all over it, and I love it, but that's beside the point. The point it, when we keep the furnace turned down to chill, using the quilt keeps me warm all over. Except my face, but that's used to frost.

Anyway, what makes me doubly happy about having my farm quilt is knowing we don't have to use any kind of space heater to add warmth to the house. We've done that in past houses in past states, especially in the bathrooms.

This is the time of year when portable or stationary space heaters are found to start more fires in family homes than at any other time of the year.

Worse, the National Fire Protection Association notes that nearly three in four people killed in home heating fires in 2006 died in fires that involved stationary or portable space heaters.

In 2006 - which must have been the latest year they had figures for - they say "heating equipment was involved in an estimated 64,100 U.S. home structure fires, 540 civilian deaths, 1,400 civilian injuries and $943 million in direct property damage. The peak months for home heating fires are December, January and February."

Then they urged the public to be cautious when using heating equipment. I'd like to say "You think?" but that would sound crass, and this is too important to be crass about it.

They also found that:

We were red-tagged from using the furnace in a house we bought in Wisconsin because the chimney needed an extreme cleaning. My daughter was too big by then, so we had to hire a chimney sweep. Oh, stop, I wouldn't have made her do it, really, even if she had been small enough to shove down the chimney.

But, I digress.

NFPA - that's the National Fire Protection Association, remember - offers heating safety tips too.

- Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, such as the furnace, fireplace, wood stove or portable heater.

- Only use heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.

- Never use your oven for heating.

- Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer's instructions.

- Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional.

- Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.

- For fuel-burning space heaters, always use the proper fuel specified by the manufacturer.

- Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room and burn only dry, seasoned wood. Allow ashes to cool before disposing in a metal container, which is kept a safe distance from the home.

- For wood-burning stoves, install chimney connectors and chimneys following manufacturer's instructions or have a professional do the installation.

- Make sure all fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

- Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms to avoid the risk of poisoning.

- If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not attempt to light the appliance. Turn off all the controls and open doors and windows. Call a gas service person.

- Test smoke alarms at least monthly.

This is important stuff, folks. Be careful with those space heaters.

So long friends, until the next time when we're together.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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