Fire officials push space heater safety - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Fire officials push space heater safety

With temperatures dropping and heating costs climbing ever-higher, a lot of people turn to space heaters to stay warm. But officials warn that just because they're common, doesn't mean the devices can't be dangerous if used incorrectly.

Justin Smock is the Assistant Fire Chief of Evansdale. He said the most important thing is to follow the heater's instructions. He also stressed keeping the unit at a safe distance from flammable material.

"We really kind of adhere to a rough three feet rule at a minimum," Smock said.

If not, things can get out of control quickly. A blanket draped over a space heater takes just a few minutes to ignite, and spread to surrounding furniture.

The consequences could be deadly -- federal data shows space heaters cause a third of home heating fires, and 4 out of those 5 are fatal.

Smock said the type of space heater that blows air over an exposed heating element are cheaper, but more dangerous.

But whatever the unit, Smock said you should always plug it directly into the wall, and make sure it can't tip over.

But he said the best advice for keeping your family safe is nothing new.

"The reason it's repeated often is it makes complete sense," Smock said. "If there are smoke detectors in homes, that increases the chances of you and your family getting out alive drastically."

He also stressed the importance of shutting the heater off before leaving the room.

Evansdale fire officials said smoke detectors are so important that they'll install them in your home for free.

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