While this is the time of year when Louisianans begin to receive a much-welcomed reprieve from the steamy, suffocating heat and humidity of summer, cooler temperatures also bring an increased risk of fires from improperly managed heating sources. “As a state that has its share of prolonged warm weather,” says State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning, Jr., “cooler temperatures have finally arrived, meaning that many will begin using heating devices, such as space heaters, which inherently leads to a greater chance of fires.”
To support this claim, Browning said that fire departments across the state have already experienced an increase in the number of fires where heating devices are suspected as the cause. “Our investigators alone were called to investigate more than a dozen fires,” said Browning of the first weekend of cold temperatures of the season. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association reports that, from 2009 to 2013, heating equipment, which includes both electric and gas-fueled space heaters, accounted for 16% of all home fires in the United States. Worse, space haters were the cause of 84% of the deaths that occurred in those fires. Poorly maintained or managed fireplaces and chimneys were a close second to space heaters in home fires and civilian deaths.
In order to enjoy the changes in temperature and stay warm this winter without the worry of fires, the State Fire Marshal’s Office recommends the observance of the following guidelines:
• Do not place anything flammable, such as furniture, bedding and paper products within three (3) feet of any heating source, such as space heaters, ovens, stoves or fireplaces; • Do not use ovens to warm your house; • When using an electric space heater, do not connect the heater to an extension cord or to a power strip shared with other electronic devices; • If using a gas-powered space heater or fireplace, make sure that carbon monoxide detectors are installed in strategic locations in the home or business; • Always turn space heaters off when leaving the room. Never leave heaters or fireplaces unattended; • Place a spark-resistant screen in front of a fireplace when in use; • Keep children and pets away from all heating sources.
For more safety tips on heating equipment, please visit the website of the National Fire Prevention Association at www.nfpa.org, or the United States Fire Administration website at www.usfa.fema.gov.