FORT LEE, Va. (Oct. 29, 2009) – “Officials Confirm Space Heater As Cause Of House Fire.” This was the headline in an Oct. 5 Columbus, Ohio, newspaper.

Columbus is not near Virginia, but this can happen to anyone, anywhere: even at Fort Lee. This fire occurred on Oct. 4, at the beginning of this year’s Fire Prevention Week. This was the most important week of the fire service as Fort Lee Fire and Emergency Services promoted the message “Stay Fire Smart and Don’t Get Burned.”

For many, space heaters are used as an additional source of heat, but some are used to try and reduce cost associated with gas and electric bills. For some people this may be their only source of heat. If one decides to buy and use a space heater, there are several things one can do to help stop fires from occurring and “Stay Fire Smart and Don’t Get Burned.”

Many people buy space heaters without reading the instructions and do not understand the safe use and function of the heater. Improper use of space heaters is a fire waiting to happen and often times, a fire does happen.

Most incidents that involve a space heater were caused by the space heater being too close to sources of ignition that then caught on fire. The below items outline the proper use of space heaters. Only electric space heaters can be used on Fort Lee with minimal risk by adhering to these fire safety tips:

• Make sure the electric space heater is Underwriters Laboratories approved.

• Ensure the heater is at least three feet away from clothing, furniture or curtains. Fort Lee requires that all space heaters be three feet away from any combustible materials. Also keep the space heater away from children.

• Do not plug the space heater into an outlet with many other devices or a use an extension cord with the unit.

• Do not leave the space heater running overnight while one sleeps.

• Anytime one leaves the home or office, turn off the space heater.

• Fort Lee requires that space heaters have a tip switch that will turn the heater off automatically if it is tipped over.

Finally, for those living outside of Fort Lee who use a propane, natural gas or kerosene heater in the home: don’t use them in an unventilated room, as these heaters produce carbon monoxide, a potentially deadly colorless and odorless gas. Ensure that there is a working CO detector in the home. Be aware that gasoline is not the same as kerosene and will cause a fire in a kerosene heater.

For questions or assistance, contact the Fire Prevention Office at (804) 734-6597.