Fire officials, Red Cross urge caution when using space heaters after surge in calls

Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 7:34 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - When the temperatures drop and the snow falls people do whatever it takes to keep warm, but the Richmond Fire Department and American Red Cross are urging people to be careful with space heaters after 17 fires across the state this weekend.

Fifty people around the Commonwealth were displaced as a result, and the Red Cross says five of those responses were in Central Virginia. On Friday alone, the Richmond Fire Department responded to three different fires within hours.

Earl Dyer, Fire Marshal with Richmond Fire, says one of those fires was caused by clothes being placed on a heater in a hotel off of Midlothian Turnpike.

“The material in that clothing dried out and over a period of time it just ignited so we’re fortunate that we didn’t get any injuries in that incident but once again we just want people to be aware of their surroundings,” Dyer said.

It’s incidents like this that the Virginia chapter of the American Red Cross says they have volunteers on standby 24/7 to help anyone impacted by disaster.

“Whether it’s a two o clock in the afternoon or two o clock in the morning, we can be there to work with the fire department to be able to provide resources to make sure families can get a place to stay for a couple of days,” Jonathan McNamara, with Red Cross, said. " We’ll make sure they get access to food, medication, eyeglasses if they lost them but also to provide disaster mental health support.”

Fire officials are asking you to make sure you have a working smoke alarm and to be aware of your surroundings when using a space heater.

Monday afternoon a house on Edmonds Ave. in Petersburg went up in flames and a family pet was killed all because a space heater was too close to a bed.

Dyer asks if you are using a kerosene heater to make sure you do not refill it inside your home which could put you at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. He also says to not leave a space heater on overnight and try to find one with a tipping alarm.

“We just want people to be aware of their surroundings when you use these types of heaters,” Dyer said. “We want you to use them during the daytime and not necessarily at night when you’re going to bed.”

If you are in need of a working smoking detector you can call the Richmond Fire Department at 804-646-1526 or you can visit your nearest fire station to get one for free.

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