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Oklahoma has been experiencing historically cold weather with temperatures as low as minus 31. With that in mind, more and more people are turning to alternative ways of heating their homes to cut back on exorbitant heating bills with fuel and energy costs so high.

Space heaters are considered a relatively inexpensive option for supplemental heat, but these types of heaters can also be one of the most dangerous household appliances, that pose a fire hazard if the heater is not properly maintained.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) space heaters are the source of 21,800 home fires every year, and about 300 people die annually as a result of the related fires.

Space Heaters Linked to Recent Fires

A space heater was likely the cause of a fire that destroyed a Tulsa home last week, according to firefighters. They arrived on the scene to find heavy flames coming from the garage.

The owners of the home apparently had a space heater in the garage to keep their pets warm. Two of the dogs inside the home died in the fire. The family, two adults, and one infant, made it out safely. But their home was a total loss.

In a separate fire, also in Tulsa, firefighters say a space heater got too close to the bed and causing a fire. The man who lives in the house tried to put out the fire by throwing snow on it, which was unsuccessful. He was able to get out of the home, but his dog died in the fire.

In January, a fire destroyed a mobile home killing one person. Skiatook Fire Chief Dale Parrish, says they are unsure what caused the fire but believe it may have been the heater to close to the bed.

“You need to keep a safe distance away from combustibles, and that’s the rule we find is broken more than any," Parrish said.

Space Heater Safety

Always maintain at least a 3-foot clearance in every direction, surrounding any type of space heater. Drapes, bedding and rugs are highly flammable and should be kept as far away from the heater as possible.

While it may seem bothersome, the space heater should be turned off when you are not in the same room. Unsupervised pets and children can accidentally knock over the space heater causing a fire.

For optimum safety, purchase a new space heater when possible. Never use a heater that doesn’t have the UL (Underwriters’ Laboratories) standard of approval attached to it. Many old, poorly wired heaters can cause a fire without warning.

Make sure the heater has a “tip switch” that turns the heater off automatically if it is knocked or tipped over.

Never dry socks or gloves or any other clothing items on the heater.

Space heaters require high wattage and should not be plugged into outlets using multiple plugs. Extension cords should also be avoided as they tend to overheat and ignite with excessive wattage.

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