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Division of Fire Safety urges caution heating homes as temperatures plunge in Missouri


JEFFERSON CITY – The Division of Fire Safety is urging caution as temperatures across Missouri plunge well below freezing for an extended period and more residents turn to space heaters and supplemental heating sources to provide additional heat in their homes. Most years, space heaters account for about one-third of home heating fires and 80 percent of heating fire deaths. Overloaded extension cords, power strips and generators also pose danger.

“During extremely cold weather, more people turn to space heaters and other heating sources to supplement their heating systems,” State Fire Marshal Tim Bean said. “Many do not understand the risks these devices can pose when misused. We’re reminding folks to follow manufacturer instructions and basic fire safety rules, including having smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their homes.”

Remember these safety tips whenever heating equipment is used:

Turn off portable heaters whenever leaving the room or going to bed;

· Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment. The three-foot safety zone includes furniture, drapes and electronics – anything that can burn;

· Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters;

Do not overload extension cords or outlets. Many extension cords and power strips are not designed to handle the load of an electric heater. Never place an electrical cord under a rug, to prevent the cord from overheating and causing a fire;

Never use an oven or other cooking devices to heat your home;

Never use an outdoor propane heater indoors;

· Make sure your home has working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms by testing them monthly;

· Every home should be equipped with a fire extinguisher.

Space heaters are the leading cause of home fires in the months of December, January and February, according to the National Fire Protection Association. They are designed to supplement a primary heating system in limited spaces in a residence.

Generators can also pose a danger. They should only be used outdoors and should be at least 20 feet away from windows, doors and attached garages to prevent carbon monoxide from entering the home. Only connect appliances to generators using heavy-duty extension cords. Generators should be kept dry and protected from the weather.

In November and December 2023, six people were killed and one critically injured due to carbon monoxide poisoning in two incidents in which generators were used inside residences in order to run appliances.