Fires caused by alternative heating devices

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The way you're trying to stay warm in your home could be dangerous. We've had several recent fires that were sparked by the misuse of heating devices.

The exact cause of Wednesday's fire at the Fox Rest Apartments in Henrico is still unknown. Six people had to be rescued. While we were there, firefighters told us they've been extremely busy during this cold snap and they have an important message for everyone.

"A lot of people think it's somebody else in Minnesota that it happens to, but it's not," said Henrico Fire Captain Doug Reynolds. "It happens right here in Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield."

While they might seem like the answer to your frostbitten prayers, heating devices are an accident waiting to happen.

"Anytime you see the temperature drop, we start to run into lots of problems," said Capt. Reynolds.

Many people don't actually realize just how hot alternative sources can get. So, we did some testing. Aiming a heat gun at a kerosene heater, the temperature reads more than 500 degrees. That intensity that could easily spark a fire if put too close to anything combustible.

Reynolds has this advice, "You want to make sure you keep a 36 inch clearance. The easiest way to do that is just get an old fashioned yard stick and just put it between anything that's going to be flammable. That's going to be your furniture, your drapes, the walls, any of those types of things that can catch on fire."

Henrico Fire officials recommend residents never hook up an extension cord to the extra heater. Most can't handle the additional electricity. Also, make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

It's important to turn off any extra heating devices at night. If you don't want to wake up to the frightening noise of a smoke alarm, you'll want to make sure you're living Reynold's message: "It's a heating device and you've just got to respect it."

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