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Space heaters caused 33 TN fire deaths 2011-16, fire marshal urges safety

STAFF REPORT • Jan 18, 2018 at 12:45 PM

NASHVILLE — The bitterly cold temperatures in Tennessee this week are prompting the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) to remind residents to keep safety in mind when using portable heating devices, such as electric space heaters, to stay warm.

Portable heaters are common sights during winter, but they can be dangerous. In Tennessee, portable heaters were responsible for 33 fire deaths from 2011-2016. An average of 98 portable heating fires and $2.37 million dollars in property loss are reported each year in Tennessee.

“Portable heater safety is crucial during winter’s coldest months,” said State Fire Marshal and Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “If you’re using space heaters to stay warm, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely and never leave the heater unattended.”

The SFMO encourages Tennesseans to utilize the following safety precautions to avoid heating hazards this winter:

All heaters need space. Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.

Turn heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.

Purchase and use space heaters that have an automatic shut-off—if they tip over, they shut off.

Place space heaters on a solid, flat surface and keep them and their electrical cords away from things that can burn, high traffic areas, and doorways.

Plug space heaters directly into wall outlets and never into an extension cord or power strip.

Remember, it’s important to have working smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside every sleeping area and in every bedroom, and interconnect them if possible. Test smoke alarms monthly and entirely replace any smoke alarm that is 10 years old or older. Develop and practice a home fire escape plan with every member of your household. Have two ways out of every room and a designated outside meeting place to gather in the event of an emergency.

For more home fire safety information or to download a free copy of the 2018 Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office calendar, visit tn.gov/fire.

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