Space Heaters Put Homes at Risk for Fire - KFYRTV.COM - Bismarck, ND - News, Weather, Sports

Space Heaters Put Homes at Risk for Fire

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With the sub-zero temperatures, more people are using portable heaters to keep their homes warm, but the National Fire Protection Association says there were an estimated 53,600 home structure fires each year in the United States in 2011. 

 This was the scene of a house fire that destroyed the inside of a home in Northwest Minot last Friday morning.  The cause of the fire: a heat gun.

 City of Minot Fire Inspector Jonathan Squires says, "A heat gun, for example, is made to get very hot just a distance from its tip over 900 degrees that's way more than it takes to ignite clothing or bedding in your bedroom or even the carpet on the floor."

 Like this recent incident and many others, the main cause of heater fires is placing flammable things like upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses, or bedding too close to heating equipment. 

 "They're made safe, but they're not made to be used all the time for the heat in your house, so they can be dangerous," says Squires.

 If you are using a space heater, it's important to keep flammable materials at least 3 feet away from the heater to avoid catching on fire.

 "The distance to the heat source makes a difference," says Squires.  "The closer it is, the quicker it absorbs heat, and it will ignite faster if it's closer."

 The National Fire Protection Association reports that half of all home heating fires occur in December, January, and February.

 While many of the newer space heaters on the market have automatic shut offs, there are still some things you may want to keep in mind.

 "They should be plugged directly into an outlet not into an extension cord, because that cord also uses some electricity and will warm up and can actually start a fire," says Squires.

 Although residential portable heating fires are small, they can be damaging.  The next time you go to turn on your space heater, use extra caution, so you don't become the next victim.  

 In 2011, heating equipment fires resulted in an estimated $893 million worth of property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

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