BARGERSVILLE — As we enter the cold, frigid winter months, you may be using a space heater to provide some extra warmth in your home — which can pose a risk to your safety.
According to Bargerville Fire Department, two fires in the community were caused by space heaters within two weeks.
"I think that we underestimate the power of space heaters," said Bargersville firefighter Kaleb Buchanan, who responded to both fires. "We sometimes underestimate how close we have things to them that are flammable that could cause a fire."
On December 15, a fire caused by a space heater forced a husband and wife to escape through the window of their home on Eastview Drive. The home sustained severe smoke and fire damage.
On Christmas Eve, a fire caused serious damage to a home in the 7500 block of 50 South. The family and dogs were forced to evacuate.
"It's always a scary feeling when you walk up after pulling down the road and seeing fire blowing out of the house and a lot of smoke," Buchanan said regarding the Christmas Eve fire.
No one was injured in either fire but the department is warning the community of the dangers space heaters can cause.
"When we leave them unattended and leave them plugged in and running for multiple hours at a time, that can lead to obvious fires and bad things happening," Buchanan said.
They offer these space heater safety tips:
1. Choose the right space heater: Select an appropriate one for the space you want to heat. Consider the size of the room, the type of heater (electric or fuel-powered), and its safety features.
2. Read the manufacturer’s instructions: Familiarize yourself with the heater’s manual and safety guidelines before using it. Follow the instructions carefully regarding installation, operation, and maintenance.
3. Keep the heater away from flammable items: Maintain a safe distance of at least three feet between the heater and any flammable materials, such as curtains, rugs, furniture, or bedding. This prevents the risk of fire accidents.
4. Place on a stable surface: Set up the space heater on a level and stable surface to minimize the risk of being knocked over accidentally. Avoid placing it on unstable or uneven surfaces that could cause it to fall.
5. Never leave unattended: Always monitor the space heater when it's in use, and avoid leaving it unattended, especially if children or pets are nearby. Please turn it off and unplug it when you leave the room or go to bed.
6. Keep a clear space around the heater: Ensure that the space around the heater is clear of any obstructions or obstacles. This prevents the heater from overheating or blocking the airflow, leading to potential safety issues.
7. Use a thermostat or timer: Consider using a space heater with built-in thermostats or timers to avoid overheating or running for an extended duration. This allows you to set the desired temperature or duration of use, enhancing safety and energy efficiency.
8. Maintain proper ventilation: Only use fuel-powered space heaters indoors with proper ventilation. These heaters produce carbon monoxide, which can be deadly. Please always ensure you can use adequate ventilation to avoid the buildup of carbon monoxide gas.
9. Check cords and plugs: Regularly inspect the power cord and plug of the heater for any signs of damage, such as fraying or cracking. If the cord or plug is damaged, please stop using it immediately and replace it.
10. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: In case of any malfunction or unforeseen situations, ensure your space is equipped with working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Regularly test and maintain these devices for optimal safety.
Buchanan hopes Hoosiers take these tips seriously to prevent the worst-case scenario.
"It's not only scary for you, it's scary for us as firefighters," Buchanan said. "We're going in and doing a search in blackout conditions to save you and get you out of your house."