Cold snap prompts metro firefighters to issue warning on space heaters safety

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- While metro firefighters brace for bone-chilling temperatures in the coming days, they’re also spreading the word about how to prevent one of the leading causes of house fires in the winter: improperly used space heaters.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters account for 43 percent of home heating fires and 85 percent of home heating fire deaths.

“A 3-foot buffer around your space heater is a good way to prevent any kind of danger from anything coming into contact with that space heater and causing it to ignite,” Lt. Tyler Butts with the Overland Park Fire Department said.

Another common mistake people make with space heaters is attaching the units to an extension cord.

Using a thermal imaging camera, Butts demonstrated how quickly extension cords, connected to a space heater, can overheat and spark a fire.

Butts also advises using a newer model space heater because of two crucial features older devices lack.

“One of which, if it’s knocked over, it will turn the space heater off,” Butts said. “The other thing (the newer models do),  if it starts to overheat, it will shut it down and disable the space heater.”

Last but certainly not least: Make sure your smoke detectors are working.

"Smoke detectors save lives -- bottom line. Make sure that your smoke detectors are working properly. This a good time to check those," Butts said. "We recommend you check those every month, but especially with this cold snap coming on, the danger of fire is definitely higher. So take this opportunity to check those smoke detectors. They do save lives."

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