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Stay warm, but wary

December 30, 2010

With low temperatures expected to dip below freezing by the weekend, many area residents will be looking for some extra warmth, a search local fire officials say can turn deadly if precautions aren’t taken.

Big Spring Fire Marshal Carl Condray said there are many different types of secondary heating, ranging from portable electric units to wood-burning stoves, but the most common causes of fires involving them are avoidable.

“There are a lot of different type space heaters out there,” said Condray. “There are portable electric heaters, portable kerosene heaters, stoves, fireplaces and room gas heaters.

“There are many common causes of home heating fires. In wood burning appliances, a lack of proper cleaning can lead to excessive build up of creosote in the chimney and connectors. Also, a lack of safety enclosures or poor design account for many fires. For space heaters, the single largest cause is failing to maintain a safe distance from combustibles followed closely by improper fueling practices.”

Fires involving portable heaters can be avoided by exercising some simple precautions, said Condray, including checking to be sure the unit has been tested.

“Space heaters need space,” said Condray. “Portable space heaters need a 3-foot clearance from anything that will burn. Keep them far away from drapes and bedding materials, and make sure they have a ‘tip-over’ safety switch that will shut them down in the event they are upset.

“Also, don’t stand so close to a space heater that your clothes could come in contact with it. Never leave one burning while you’re asleep or away from the room. Also, always make sure your heater is approved by one of the independent labs, such as Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual.”

For more information, you may subscribe to the Big Spring Herald or purchase an e-edition.

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