KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The area braces for dangerously cold weather to move in later this week. It also brings a warning as people struggle to stay warm and survive.

The Missouri State Fire Marshal asks people to be extra cautious heating their homes, especially if relying on space heaters.

The State Fire Marshal says space heaters account for about one-third of home heating fires. He also said space heaters are responsible for 80% of heating deaths.

For example, seven people died and six other people were injured during a week in February 2015 that was extremely cold, according to the State Fire Marshal.

“The weather forecast calls for temperatures to plummet across Missouri this week, and we know that fire risks rise dramatically as people turn to supplemental heating sources to keep their homes warm,” Tim Bean, Missouri State Fire Marshal said. “Many people do not understand the risks space heaters pose when misused, leading to deadly fires that could be prevented.”

Space heaters are not designed to be a primary heating source. They are to be used in small spaces that do not get sufficient heat from the heating system installed in a home or building.

The fire marshal also warns that anyone using a space heater needs to take other precautions.

“People need to think of space heaters and smoke alarms as working together. Smoke alarms are essential in the home,” Bean said. 

The Red Cross can assist people who cannot afford to purchase smoke alarms or are physically unable to install one. The Red Cross can help with a free smoke alarm installation. Sign up at redcross.org/smokealarmMO or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. 

In addition to smoke alarms, there are other precautions and tips that need to be taken when space heaters are used.

  • Turn off portable heaters whenever leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment. The three-foot safety zone includes furniture, drapes, Christmas trees and electronics.
  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Do not overload extension cords or outlets. Many extension cords and power strips are not designed to handle the load of an electric heater.
  • Never use an oven or other cooking devices to heat your home.
  • Never use an outdoor propane heater indoors.

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