East Valley fire chief offers tips to avoid disaster with a space heater

    Photo: North Davis Fire District

    YAKIMA, Wash. -- Thank goodness for portable heaters, because without them, it can get pretty uncomfortable in some offices, and even homes, if your furnace just isn’t doing the trick.

    But, there’s some rules firefighters stress you follow, so that they’re not called out, because of it.

    "If you’re using a portable heater, it has to be a minimum of three feet from any combustibles, such as clothes, furniture, drapes, things like that," said Fire Chief Mark Emery with the East Valley Fire Department.

    He says heaters need to be free of anything on all sides of it, and also warns against something as simple as using an extension cord.

    "Those portable heaters should be plugged directly into a wall outlet," said Emery.

    He says using them overnight or for long periods of time is a big mistake, because they can catch fire. And he says to turn them off, anytime you leave the room.

    "I would not leave them unattended. They need to be watched. If there's children and pets at home, make sure they're in a location, where they can't be knocked over and start the carpeting or rug on fire," said Emery.

    Between 2013 and 2015, firefighters say there was an average of nearly 46,000 home heating fires in the U.S., each year. It killed over 200 people and injured over 700 each year, and over $500 million dollars worth of property was lost.

    And aside from being a potential fire hazard, portable heaters can do a number on your power bill.

    "You gotta use them really sparingly. They can be expensive little units. The calculation we have is a 1500 watt portable heater, if you run that eight hours a day, you're looking at maybe $30 additional to your heating bill for doing that," said Tom Gauntt with Pacific Power.

    Gauntt says ideally, you should use your home heating system, and thermostats should be set to 68 to keep your bill down, or even lower, if you and your family are comfortable.

    "And then, when you're gone or at night, turn it down to 60 or even below. Every 10 degrees, you lower, it will reduce your usage and thereby your bill, by about 10 percent," said Gauntt.

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