Space Heater Safety

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December 9, 2005
There are 13 deaths from heat-related fires last year. Those are deaths caused by home heaters. Fire and Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine is trying to get that number down. He tours cities like Augusta, urging residents to take precautions while heating their homes.

In 2004 there were 135 fire-related deaths in Georgia. Of those, 13 were caused by space heaters. Interim Fire Chief Howard Willis says heating deaths can be prevented.

“A lot of it’s commonsense, a lot of it is accidental,” Willis said.

Fire and Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine is here in Augusta on his annual heating tour, a tour he started two years ago, and is helping to bring fire deaths down.

“We started in 2003 and in 2004 we saw approximately a 50% reduction in heating deaths,” Oxendine said.

Oxendine says when using electric heaters or kerosene heaters, only use those with the underwriter’s laboratory label. And use only those with a three-prong plug. And lastly, use common sense.

“We’ve actually had people put space heaters in chairs, on pieces of furniture because if you elevate it get the heat closer to your face and it makes you feel good. It’s very very dangerous to do that,” Oxendine said.

It is also very dangerous to fall asleep with a space heater on.

“Don’t ever use it overnight when you are sleeping because the fuel levels in the kerosene heaters will get down. It’ll burn up all oxygen levels in the house,” Willis said.

Bottom line: space heaters are safe when used properly.

“We encourage people when using products like this to have someone attend to them at all times,” Willis said.

For more advice on safe heating, visit the Georgia Insurance Commissioner’s website.

Also, John Oxendine’s office will provide free smoke detectors to people who need one and can’t afford one.