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Posted on: January 12, 2022

A Message from the Fire Chief: Space Heater Safety

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On Monday, January 10, 2022, 17 people in New York tragically lost their lives in an apartment building fire caused by an electric space heater. In light of this, the Winnetka Fire Department would like to remind our residents about how to safely operate a portable heating device in your home. 

Portable electric space heaters are high-wattage appliances that have the potential to ignite nearby combustible materials like curtains, beds, sofas, paper, clothing, and flammable liquids. They are responsible for an average of 1,700 house fires a year, resulting in about 80 deaths and 160 injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. They’re mostly caused when a heater—typically an electric one—is placed too close to curtains, bedding, or upholstered furniture.

Electric Portable Space Heater Safety Tips

  • Purchase a heater with the seal of a qualified testing laboratory. 
  • Keep the heater at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn, including people. 
  • Choose a heater with a thermostat and overheat protection. 
  • Place the heater on a solid, flat surface. 
  • Make sure your heater has an auto shut-off to turn the heater off if it tips over. 
  • Keep space heaters out of the way of foot traffic. Never block an exit. 
  • Keep children and pets away from the space heater. 
  • Plug the heater directly into the wall outlet. Never use an extension cord. 
  • Space heaters should be turned off and unplugged when you leave the room or go to bed.

The Winnetka Fire Department wants you to remain safe and warm this winter season. For additional information regarding space heater safety, please call the Winnetka Fire Department at 847-501-6029. More fire safety tips are available on the National Fire Protection Association’s website, the U.S. Fire Administration’s website, and at the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s website.

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