FREEPORT, Ill. (WTVO) — Fire officials are sending an important message to the public after a house fire in Freeport took the lives of several family pets.
No one was home, but several cats died in the fire. Firefighters say the blaze was caused by a space heater.
“It is definitely a cause of fires if it’s not done properly, but they can be used safely,” explained Belvidere Fire Captian Shawn Schadle.
Following a few simple steps can ensure your space heater doesn’t become a fire hazard.
“Heater fans, or portable heaters, if they tip over and they’re right on the ground, it has caused fires,” Capt. Schadle said.
To prevent any accidents, it’s a good idea to place your heater on a hard, level surace–away from any flammable items.
“You want to make sure there’s nothing around it within about a three-foot distance. And that makes sense, you wouldn’t want anything else to get hot or potentially cause a fire that way,” the fire captain added.
Extension cords should be avoided too. Plugging a heater into an extension cord can overload circuits and start a fire. You should also make sure to turn off your heater before leaving the house or going to sleep.
“Space heaters are not really meant to heat homes. They’re just to make it a little more comfortable for someone who’s in a room. So unfortunately it can’t be used to heat a home. So if the furnace is out, you need to call a repairman and get that fixed as soon as possible,” Capt. Schadle said.
If you are planning on using a fireplace instead of a space heater to stay warm this winter, Schadle warns there are still risks to avoid. It’s essential to clean your chimney regularly. Put a screen up and be careful with any old ashes.
“It is not uncommon for ashes to be cleaned out of a fireplace, put next to the home in a trashcan, and light on fire, causing a fire in the home. The recommendation is you put that in a metal can with a lid and keep that at least three feet from your home,” Capt. Schadle added.
Some space heaters have an anti-tip switch and power down when they are knocked over. Fire officials recommend models with this feature.