Woodward, Okla. —
In Oklahoma City during the month of December, 4 house fires occurred resulting in the death of 2 adults, 4 children, as well as 4 dogs. All of these fires were attributed to the misuse of space heaters within the home.
To help prevent similar tragedies from taking place, Woodward Fire Prevention and local fire departments are warning people to take precautions and providing them with fire prevention tips.
WFD Public Information Officer Melissa Hobbs gave several tips to protect your family and help prevent fires caused by space heaters.
Hobbs said her biggest advice is to "make sure you have working smoke alarms."
While a smoke alarm won't prevent a fire, it may prevent injuries or death from a fire by notifying residents of smoke within the home.
Hobbs advises families place smoke alarms outside of each sleeping area and on all levels of the house including the basement.
If you do not have smoke alarms for your home, she said the Woodward Fire Department has a program where it provides free smoke detectors to the public and can even send someone to help install the detectors. For more information or to get a free smoke alarm, contact Hobbs at 571-9592.
When it comes to preventing space heater fires, Hobbs encourages people to keep in mind that "space heaters need space" and recommends keeping all combustible materials at least 3 feet away from the heater.
She also asks citizens to make sure open face heaters have screens, and that unattended space heaters are turned off and unplugged before leaving the home.
Hobbs went on to advise that people never leave children alone in rooms where space heaters are located, as children can knock the heaters over or stick flammable objects in the grates of the devices.
For electric heaters, Hobbs recommends making sure they're free of lint and dust, which when heated can potentially catch fire.
She also said to avoid overloading outlets or electrical breaks, and to not use extension cords with electric heaters as that can increase the fire danger.
CARBON MONOXIDE ALSO A RISK
However, fires are not the only hazard posed by space heaters, Hobbs said.
"You also want to make sure you provide proper ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning," she said.
Hobbs recommends people acquire carbon monoxide detectors for their homes as well, as they're inexpensive and could help save your life by detecting the odorless, tasteless, colorless gas.
And space heaters aren't the only heating apparatuses people should watch out for carbon monoxide leaks. Hobbs recommends people have their central heating units, floor furnaces, recessed wall heaters, vented space heaters and other vented gas/fired heating appliances inspected annually by a qualified service technician prior to use.
For those heaters that use a flame, she noted that keeping an eye on the flame can also help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
"If your flame is not blue, it's not burning properly. It is producing carbon monoxide, and it needs to be turned off," she said.
Hobbs said people can help prevent carbon monoxide leaks by ensuring these devices have proper ventilation pipes to the outside, using metal tubing with threaded ends connecting the heater to the gas valve as opposed to rubber hose, and by following the manufacturer's recommendations for proper usage.
"If you suspect a leaks," said Hobbs, "use soapy water to check all connections and valves for leaks. Never use a match to test for a gas leak."
For more information about how to protect your home from fires and gas leaks, contact Melissa Hobbs at 571-5292.