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Before you unpack that space heater … a cautionary tale

Safety tips from BWG Fire & Emergency Services
PH-Heater nov5
Stock photo

Late last winter, Bradford West Gwillimbury Fire and Emergency Services responded to a call from a concerned tenant.The temperature in her apartment has been rising throughout the day and she was concerned about a possible fire hazard.

Upon arrival at the scene, the BWG Fire crew discovered that a space heater had been installed in a wall adjoining the tenant’s apartment.The drywall paper had begun to char and the crew found that the wall temperature was approaching ignition temperature.The tenant’s decision to call BWG Fire and inform us of her concerns likely prevented a fire from occurring.

According to the U.S.-based National Fire Protection Association, space heaters account for 43% of U.S. home heating fires and 85% of home heating fire deaths.While space heaters can be an effective means to provide heat to a room, precautions must be taken to reduce the fire risk associated with the devices.

Space heaters are designed for temporary use only.They are not designed to be run continuously over extended periods of time.

If you do plan on using a space heater at home or in the office this winter, make sure to follow these tips:

  • Discard older space heaters in favour of one with a thermostat and timer that can automatically shut it off ifit overheats, as well as a tip-over switch that will shut it off if it is knocked over.
  • Purchase a heater with the seal of a qualified testing organization, such as ULC or CSA.
  • Conduct a visual inspection of your space heater each time before you use it to ensure that the cord is intact and there is no obvious damage such as cracks or melting, warping or scorching on any of the parts.
  • Keep the heater at least 1 metre (3 ft) from anything that can burn, including carpets, drapes and furniture.
  • Place the heater on a solid, flat surface.
  • Plug the space 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.

And of course, always have working smoke alarms on each floor of the home and outside of the bedrooms.You may have only minutes to evacuate your home in the event of a fire, so early detection is essential to your safety.

If you have any questions about the use of space heaters in the home, call BWG Fire Prevention at 905-775-7311. Our Fire Prevention staff are happy to speak to you or visit your home to help you ensure your home is a safe as possible from fire hazards.