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Fenton Street fire caused by space heater – a common winter season risk

SoVaNow.com / December 06, 2018


Following a fire department investigation, the cause of the house fire on Fenton Street in South Boston has been ruled accidental.

South Boston Fire Department Deputy Chief/Fire Official Dwight Spangler has concluded his investigation of Nov. 24 blaze that destroyed a Fenton Street residence. Spangler’s investigation revealed that a space heater was left on while no one was home. It was confirmed that this space heater was connected to a long extension cord.

The rental home was left a total loss by the flames, but no one was injured. However, a pet dog perished in the fire.

With the winter season upon us, the South Boston Fire Department reminds everyone of a few safety tips to follow with the use of space heaters.

When the weather turns cold, it can bring a chill into our homes. Portable space heaters have become a popular way to supplement central heating or heat one room. If you plan to use portable electric space heaters, make sure to follow these tips and recommendations:



HEATER CHECKLIST

» Purchase a heater with the seal of an independent 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 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.

These safety tips apply to the many types of electric space heaters to include:

Oil or water-filled radiator

Heated oil or water travels through the heater

Fan-forced heater – A fan blows warm air over metal coils

Ceramic heater – Air is warmed over a ceramic heating element.

Infrared heaters – Heat is created by infrared bulbs.

According to the National Fire Protections Association, in 2011-2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 54,030 structure fires per year in homes that involved heating equipment. These fires resulted in annual losses of 480 civilian deaths, 1,470 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage. These homes included one- and two-family homes (including manufactured homes) and apartments (including townhouses and other multi- family dwellings).

Space heaters are the type of equipment most often involved in home heating equipment fires, figuring in two of every five fires (43 percent). The fires involving space heaters accounted for 85 percent of the civilian deaths and 78 percent of civilian injuries in home fires caused by heating equipment, as well as over half (53 percent) of direct property damage.

Another 31% of fires involved a fireplace or chimney, but these fires accounted for a much smaller share of civilian fatalities (seven percent) and civilian injuries (six percent). Central heat and water heaters were responsible for 11 percent and 10 percent of home fires caused by heating equipment, respectively.

In 2011-2015, U.S. fire departments responded to 54,030 home structure fires that involved heating equipment. These fires caused:

» 480 civilian fire deaths

» 1,470 civilian fire injuries

» $1.1 billion in direct property damage

Heating equipment fires accounted for 15 percent of all reported home fires in 2011-2015 (second behind cooking) and 19 percent of home fire deaths.

The leading factor contributing to home heating fires (28 percent) was failure to clean, principally from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys.

The leading factor contributing to ignition for home heating fire deaths (53 percent) was heating equipment too close to flammable items, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding.

Most home heating fire deaths (85%) involved stationary or portable space heaters.

Nearly half (48 percent) of all home heating fires occurred in December, January, and February. The number of home heating fires peaked in the hours between 5-9 p.m.

For more safety tips throughout the year, follow the South Boston Fire Department on Facebook @SouthBostonFD

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