A Laurel, Maryland, family may have learned the hard way; however, their loss of property should serve as a reminder to everyone about precautions when using electric space heaters. Fire/EMS units from the Laurel area were alerted to a house fire on Friday evening, November 26, 2010, just after 8:00 pm. Firefighters from Laurel arrived at a 2-story single family home in the 13800 block of Brown Branch Road and quickly extinguished a fire that was started by a space heater igniting nearby combustibles. Fortunately, there were no injuries and fire loss was estimated at $10,000. With cold weather falling upon the region citizens and residents are finding ways to stay warm. It’s no secret that firefighters are busier during the winter months and a main reason is blamed on space heaters. The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department (PGFD) is joining the United States Fire Administration (USFA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in offering simple steps to keep you safe.
Citing recent fires in Pennsylvania and Florida which claimed the lives of nine children and one adult and may have been caused by space heaters, the USFA, NFPA and the PGFD want to remind everyone that fire safety and prevention are especially important in the coming months.
“These fires are a painful reminder of what we see every year—the temperatures drop and fires increase,” said NFPA President Jim Shannon. According to NFPA statistics space heaters account for about one third of the home heating fires yet more than 80 percent of the home heating fire deaths.
The Winter Residential Building Fires (PDF, 1Mb) report released by USFA in 2010, reports an estimated 108,400 winter residential building fires occur annually in the United States, resulting in an estimated average of 945 deaths, 3,825 injuries, and $1.7 billion in property loss. Cooking is the leading cause of winter residential building fires at 36 percent followed by heating at 23 percent, and winter residential building fires occur mainly in the early evening hours, peaking from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“The winter season brings the highest number of home fires than any other time of year,” said USFA’s Acting Fire Administrator Glenn Gaines. “Each winter season, home fires increase in part due to cooking and heating fires.”
Prince George’s County Fire Chief Eugene A. Jones stated, “Fire safety and injury prevention must not be lost in an effort to stay warm. Stay warm and do so safely.”
The men and women, career and volunteer, of the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department recommend the following safety tips for space heaters.
Electric Space Heaters
• Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
• Check to make sure it has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over.
• Heaters are not dryers or tables; don't dry clothes or store objects on top of your heater.
• Space heaters need space; keep combustibles at least three feet away from each heater.
• Always unplug your electric space heater when not in use.
Finally, having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. Remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family. Residents of Prince George’s County can contact our smoke alarm hotline at 301-864-SAFE (7233). A firefighter will install a working smoke alarm in your home; free of charge.
For additional information from the USFA and NFPA on Winter Fire Safety; click here.