FOX 59 INVESTIGATES: Space heater safety

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Space heaters are some of the most common things to have when temperatures dip. But, fire officials say they can pose a hidden danger.

“The fire that you see and that we see isn’t the fire that we worry about. It’s the fire that you don’t see that poses the greatest danger to not only the firefighters, but also the residents,” said Lt. Larry Tracy, Indianapolis Fire Dept.

Lt. Tracy says that’s because space heaters, plugged in the wrong way, can start a fire that you may not notice until it’s too late.

“They short out at the heater or they short out possibly behind the wall, which you can’t see. Then, the residents end up going to sleep, later on, they have a fire situation,” said Tracy.

To avoid that, Lt. tracy says don’t plug the space heater directly in to the wall. Instead, use a surge protector that has a built in circuit breaker for added fire protection. Also, he says don’t use an extension cord. They aren’t designed to handle the amount of energy it takes to power a space heater.

October is fire prevention month. The National Fire Protection Association’s most recent study says heating equipment, like space heaters, was involved in an estimated 57,100 reported house fires, resulting in nearly 500 deaths. Many experts say some of the leading causes are overturned source heaters, or ones that are too close to blankets or furniture.

Another protective measure is to check your chimney for cracks, before lighting your fireplace.

“If the crack or the opening is big enough, you have insulation up there, it only takes a little ember to get in there to start the insulation on fire and before you know it you have a huge attic fire above your head,” said Tracy.

Of course, functioning smoke detectors in your home are one of the most important things.

“If you don’t have a smoke detector, please, we advise all residents, go to a fire station that is closest to your home and advise them that you need a smoke detector,” said Tracy.

The Decatur and Wayne Township Fire Departments will be conducting a joint smoke alarm give away and installation for the Mars Hill area October 21, 22, 23 and 24 from 8:00-4:00. Their goal is to give away and install 2,000 smoke detectors in four days. The official kickoff will be October 21 at Wayne Township Fire Station 81 4302 W. Bradbury Ave.

On Wednesday, folks at Indianapolis fire station number five will be holding a Smoke Detector Blitz. They’re going to neighborhoods that have seen an uptick in fires, to make sure each home has working smoke detectors.

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