Firefighters demonstrate space heater dangers


Greer, SC (WSPA) – Cold temperatures mean more house fires during the winter months. According to the state fire marshal, 34 people died in South Carolina house fires last winter.

First responders at Pelham-Batesville Fire Station in Greer and 7 News conducted a very visible reminder of how fast things can go wrong with space and kerosene heaters.

Most newer model space heaters come with safety features like automatic shut-off sensors if the heater tips over or gets too hot. Older models like maybe the one you pull out of storage when it gets this cold likely lacks those safety features.

Fire Marshal Russell Hart says, “this time of year when it’s really cold and a lot of people are trying to just heat one or two rooms they might go buy a couple space heaters so they don’t have to run their electrical bill up.”

He continues, “in reality what they’re doing is not knowing they’re causing a fire hazard.”

First, Hart says reading the owners manual is important.

Also, pay extra special attention to how you power the heaters. Hart says extension cords are not the way to go.

“Really when you use space heaters you don’t want to use extension cords or drop cords. A space heater, by code, is to be plugged directly into a wall receptacle.

Once safely plugged in, keep combustibles 3 feet away or more. Combustibles are considered anything wood, paper, and plastic.

We found when a blanket or curtain made of polyester was placed directly on the heater, within 5 minutes both materials turned brown and started to melt.

Hart says never leave them unattended, especially with curious children.

Here are some other important winter weather safety tips courtesy of the State Fire Marshal:

-Only use kerosene heaters and space heaters according to the manufacturer’s instructions. They can be a convenient source of supplemental heat. However, they must be used properly and safely. Inspect the heater for cracked or broken plugs. If frayed, worn, or damaged, do not use the heater. Never leave a heater unattended. Turn it off when leaving a room. Don’t let pets or children play too close to it. Keep the unit on a flat surface at least three feet away from anything that can burn. Refuel a kerosene heater outdoors. Additionally, always plug the space heater directly into the wall. Don’t use an extension cord or power strip.

-Heating pads and electric blankets also pose a fire risk – especially if more than 10 years old. Don’t allow anything on top of either one when in use – this includes other blankets or pets. Never fold electric blankets or use while sleeping.

-Portable generators are commonly used in the winter as a result of storm-induced power outages. Carbon monoxide fumes are odorless and deadly. Follow manufacturer’s instructions to prevent death from carbon monoxide.

-Be careful when using candles. They are an open flame. Never use if oxygen is used in the home. Use sturdy candle holders and extinguish upon leaving a room or going to sleep.

-Have flashlights ready to use in case of a power outage.

-Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Never put ashes in a cardboard box or bag. Wait until ashes are cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.

-Chimneys should be cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional. If not, it can become filled with highly flammable layers of creosote.

-Do not use the kitchen oven to heat the home. It is not designed to heat large areas and the element may fail, causing a fire.