NewsLocal News


How to prevent a space heater tragedy

Posted at 6:44 PM, Jan 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-17 19:50:15-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — This weekend’s quick cold snap may be over, but that doesn’t mean you can let your guard down. Experts say that’s particularly true when it comes to using a space heater.

Space heaters lead to thousands of fires a year and that’s why it’s so important to keep you and your family safe.

Late Saturday night as the mercury began to drop, 14-year-old Sierra Reyes’ family began firing up the grill. The family was fixing to cook outside on the coldest night of the year so far, and they put one space heater outside on the porch to keep them warm while they cooked.

When asked if the family ever had any problems with space heather.

“We like to keep ourselves warm but we’ve never had any problems with them no, ” Reyes replied.

Reyes is in the ninth grade at West Oso High School and lives with her parents, 5-year-old sister and dog, Lexi, in the Molina neighborhood.

“I think I’ve grown to trust that it’s not gonna’ catch on fire,” she assured us. “It’s not going to cause any problem.”

The house they live in was built by her grandfather and has no central heat and air throughout. If you ask Sierra about space heaters, she’s a wealth of knowledge.

When we asked her how she knew so much, she replied, “me and my mom having been using space heaters forever.”

A space heater can cause a devastating situation, like last month’s fire at a New York City apartment building that killed 17 people, many of them children.

“It was very heartbreaking, I can’t imagine being in the situation with your families are in right now,” Reyes said about the tragedy.

Firefighters showed us how dangerous space heaters really can be.

In less than 30 seconds, a blanket put on the top of the appliance caught on fire. In less than two minutes, the entire room filled with smoke and flames.

We asked Alex Garcia, director of the American Red Cross of the Coastal Bend, if he thought people realized how dangerous space heaters can be.

“You know we just get comfortable. We need to always remember that comfort isn’t always the best thing," he answered.

At the same time, Garcia says it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“Always use precautions,” he advised. “If you don’t know how to swim, you take a lie fast and you don’t just jump into the pool. You have to have some protection. Do the same thing for your home.”

The U.S. Fire Administration reports that space heaters lead to a third of home heating fires, and four out of five heating fire deaths. When buying a heater, experts advise getting one that will automatically shut off if it tips over. They also recommend buying one that is certified by a lab and has a U-L code on them.

"Make sure that there's some basic safety protections on them, like a grid on the outside of it to protect child or pet from getting too close," Alex Hoehn-Saric, chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission advised.

Back in Molina, Reyes recommends if you’re going to use a space heater, know how to use it and if not, always remember there’s a possibility it could lead to tragedy.

"[That] would be heartbreaking for everybody,” she said,

Experts say following a few simple steps can prevent a tragedy from happening.

  • Keep them 3-ft. away from anything.
  • Put them on a level floor.
  • Newer space heaters have sensors to detect overheating as well as a tip-over switch, so if falls over, it automatically turns itself off.
  • Plug it directly into the wall, not an extension cord or power strip.
Tips to make sure you keep your family safe when using a space heater

Experts also strongly advise you not to use your oven as a heater, and to take this time to make sure your smoke alarms are working.

Click the link for more information on fire prevention for your home from the American Red Cross: Https://www.Redcross.Org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/fire/is-your-home-a-fire-hazard.Html