The Times Journal & Russell County News
Thursday, Apr. 24, 2014 — RUSSELL SPRINGS & JAMESTOWN, KENTUCKY — russellcounty.net
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Heater likely cause of home fire
In Jan. 7 Issue

Russell Springs Fire Chief H.M. Bottom said there have been several fires recently that are part of a seasonal trend.

"We've had two or three fires caused by heaters," Bottom said.

One of the most common causes is easily preventable.

"You have to be really careful to keep clothing and other flammable items far away from heaters," He explained.

Fire safety officer Rusty Todd said Elizabethtown has seen an increase in small fires recently, and many of them may have been started by a lack of thought when using heating devices.

The issue is one that rears its head each year when temperatures turn frosty, and Todd said precautions should be taken when heating homes.

The recent rash of fires has not resulted in any deaths, Todd said, but has left property damage in its wake, and some homes have been left temporarily uninhabitable because of smoke buildup, including an apartment that was the site of a small fire Sunday.

Todd said candles and discarded cigarette butts have been suspected as the cause of some fires, and carbon monoxide calls have increased. Chimney and flue fires are common.

When using heating devices, though, homeowners should be mindful to keep objects at a distance of at least three feet.

"Distance is your friend," Todd said.

Radcliff fire inspector Jon VanderMolen agreed, adding that he has seen many fires occur after heaters come in contact with items like curtains.

VanderMolen said he has not seen a noticeable increase in fires but encouraged homeowners to read the operating instructions before using space heaters.

Replacing older heaters is recommended, too, because newer models have ready-made safety features older models do not, such as overload protections designed to shut off a heater when it gets too hot and a tip-over switch if the heater is knocked over, he said.

Todd said portable devices, such as kerosene heaters and electric space heaters, are lightweight and better for short-term use. Yet many homeowners use them throughout the winter, wearing them down, reducing their efficiency and making them potentially dangerous.

Fatalities arise, Todd added, when such heaters are left on overnight, and large-scale property damage often occurs because the devices are left on when the home is unoccupied.

It's best to use the devices in short bursts to warm a room or home and then remove it, he said.

VanderMolen discouraged the use of kerosene heaters entirely.

"They're such a high risk," he said. If used, he said, homeowners should be careful to remember the three-foot rule.

Todd said a more distance is even better. For example, a person could fall asleep with a blanket over them and toss the blanket off during sleep.

"What was originally three feet away is now merely inches," he said.

And when storing kerosene, it is important to place it in a firmly-sealed container specified for kerosene to avoid contamination.

For built-in heating units such as furnaces and fireplaces, precaution is just as important.

Both Todd and VanderMolen advised homeowners to keep chimneys clean and replace furnace filters monthly.

VanderMolen said it also is helpful to clean furnace ducts periodically.

He also suggested not hanging objects too close to a fireplace.

This story compiled with the assistance of Marty Finley of The News-Enterprise

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Russell County News is a weekly newspaper issued on Saturdays, and is mailed free to every address in Russell County, Ky. It was first published on February 1, 1913.
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