Officials: Take care with heaters

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 31, 2004

Fighting the winter chill with a space heater requires extra precautions, local fire officials say.

Space heaters, sold at hardware stores and department stores, come in many forms, but Vidalia Fire Chief Jack Langston said some basic rules apply to all heaters.

&uot;It just takes a person stopping and thinking for a few minutes,&uot; Langston said. &uot;Don’t ever go off and leave an electric heater on. Don’t have it in the vicinity of anything that’s combustible. Over a period of time any product, drapes, sheets, couches, clothing, when exposed to enough heat can catch fire.&uot;

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Mississippi Assistant State Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Gene Humphrey said a heater should never be connected to an extension cord and it’s a good idea to have heaters on their own electrical circuit.

&uot;In most cases its not the space heater itself that cause the problem,&uot; Humphrey said. &uot;The problem is the consumer not properly taking care of it.&uot;

Humphrey said all types of heaters, electric, gas or wood burning, should farther than three feet from any combustible material and unplugged anytime you leave the room.

Langston said the better heaters have heavier gauge wires.

&uot;To run something electric you need a good heavy duty wire,&uot; Langston said.

Langston said wires should never be connected to run from one room to another.

&uot;The further apart things are the more they heat up,&uot; he said.

He also said he’s seen dry wood paneling on the wall behind a heater catch fire from the heat.

&uot;A person just has to stop and think that something might happen,&uot; he said.

Humphrey also encouraged consumers to use heaters for the places designated on the box, such as home or office. He said space heaters are prohibited by state fire codes in school classrooms, hospitals, childcare facilities and nursing homes.