Heating devices cause 16 percent of house fires

Thursday, January 15, 2009 | 7:08 p.m. CST; updated 11:01 a.m. CST, Friday, January 16, 2009

Half of all home-heating fires occur in December, January and February, said Batallion Chief Steven Sapp, Columbia Fire Department fire marshal.

Sixteen percent of all home fire deaths are a result of home heating devices, according to Sapp, second only to cooking, which makes up 21 percent.

Multiple fatality fires are defined as those that claim three or more lives according to Ed Comeau, publisher of Campus Firewatch and a blog the Columbia Fire Department references regularly.According to his blog, in January 2008, the United States experienced 11 multiple fatality fires across the country that took 42 lives.

Those numbers have already been exceeded. In just the first 15 days of January, 11 fires claimed 44 lives across the nation. Two of those multiple fatality fires occurred in Missouri.

Columbia hasn’t seen a home heating fatality fire since 1992, when two children lost their lives as a direct result of space heater misuse, Sapp said.

With the temperature dropping and heater use rising, here are some tips to stay safe while trying to stay warm:

Leading causes of portable heater fires

1.    Leaving combustibles too close to the space heater.

2.    Leaving the space heater on and/or unattended.

3.    Failure or malfunction of the space heater.

4.    Accidentally turning the space heater on or not turning it off.

Sapp said people always ask him what the leading cause of fire is.

“It’s us,” he said. “People are the leading cause of fire. We don’t pay attention to what we’re doing.”

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