Learn not to burn

Houston firefighters spray water on the ruins of a house at 254 County  Road 168 that burned in bitter cold weather about 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7. (Floyd Ingram / Buy at photos.chickasawjournal.com)

Houston firefighters spray water on the ruins of a house at 254 County Road 168 that burned in bitter cold weather about 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7.
(Floyd Ingram / Buy at photos.chickasawjournal.com)

HOUSTON – During cold weather, the goal for many people it simply to stay warm. But without safety and caution, heat can too often turn into fire.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, an estiamted 900 portable heater fires are reported to fire departments each year and are the cause of 70 deaths, 150 injuries and $53 million in property damage. And portable heaters are involved in 45 percent of all fatal heating fires in homes each year.
But portable heaters are still used by many, either as a sole heating source or in addition to other heating sources.
“Often times people are trying any way they can think of just to stay warm,” said County Fire Coordinator Jonathan Blankenship.
There are several tips and procedures that can reduce the risk of fire from portable heat sources.
n Clear a space of no less than three feet around space heaters
n Keep all items away from heaters
n Use heaters that are listed and approved by a testing laboratory
n Use heaters that are equipped with tilt-over protection
n Check cords for signs of wear; use only heaters with cords in good condition
n Space heaters are not designed to heat homes, only small spaces for short periods of time
The most important rule of thumb to follow is to stay with the heater at all times while it is in use. Heaters should be turned off when a user leaves the room and at night while home residents are sleeping.
Blankenship said that unsafe use of heaters can have much worse effects that the cold.
“It is said that personal belongings can be replaced, but that is not true,” Blankenship said. “So many things are lost forever in a fire, like pictures for example. It is very heartbreaking to see a family lose their homes, possessions and, even worse, a family member. Seeing a family go through that kind of loss is tough.”

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