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article imageChild's death from space heater fire evokes need for safety tips Special

By Kay Mathews     Feb 20, 2011 in Health
Rogers - Five-year-old Brenden Poe was laid to rest on Friday after being killed on Valentine’s Day in a fire likely caused by a space heater located in his room, and fire officials offer safety tips to prevent future deadly and common space heater fires.
Fire officials say space heaters are the leading cause of fire deaths related to home heating, and that was the tragic fate suffered recently by a child in Rogers, Ark.
At approximately 12:35 a.m. on Feb. 14, firefighters in Rogers, Ark. responded to a building fire. Upon arriving at the apartment, firefighters found Brenden Poe, 5, trapped in his bedroom. Poe was removed from the structure and transported to a local hospital where he later died.
Authorities told nwaonline that “the fire's ‘probable point of origin’ was a space heater in the child's bedroom.”
Rogers Fire Chief Tom Jenkins was quoted by 5News as saying, “Space heaters account for almost 80 percent of heating related fatality fires in the United States. So we know that not using them obviously gives people a better chance not to experience an incident like we had this morning.”
Funeral services were held for Poe, who had just turned five in November, on Feb. 18.
Given the hazards associated with space heaters, also called portable or electric heaters, one safety suggestion mentioned by Fire Chief Jenkins is to just not use them at all. However, as reported on Digital Journal, Northwest Arkansas has experienced extreme winter weather conditions in the form of blizzards and record-breaking snow accumulations. Therefore, there are times when not using space heaters is not an option.
I reached out to Larry Horton, Battalion Chief and EMS Chief for the Bentonville Fire Department, which is located in a city that borders Rogers, to find out the following: Assuming there are times when space heaters have to be used, what can be done to prevent space heater fires?
In an e-mailed reply, Battalion Chief Horton first expressed his sadness over the death of Brenden Poe. Horton then said, “I asked James Birchfield, who is our Fire Inspector, for information because he instructs folks on those guidelines daily.”
Horton said, “This is from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).” He had highlighted the safety tips below that apply to space heaters.
*Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
*Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
*Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
*Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
*Test smoke alarms monthly.
*Only use space heaters that contain a tip-over switch. Therefore if the space heater gets knocked over it will automatically shut off.
*When you purchase a space heater make sure it has a ground prong (3 pronged outlets).
Moreover, Battalion Chief Horton added, “The other thing to remind them is - have a smoke detector in every room, especially in sleeping areas. They can get one free at the Bentonville Fire Station. I believe Rogers and Bella Vista do the same but you would have to ask.”
Horton also provided a link to NFPA’s “Heating Safety” tip sheet [pdf].
According to NFPA information provided by Horton, “Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths. Almost half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January, and February.”
Walmart has recalled 2.2 portable heaters  sold nationwide  due to fire and burn hazards.
Walmart has recalled 2.2 portable heaters, sold nationwide, due to fire and burn hazards.
Consumer Product Safety Commission
In fact, according to a NFPA study released in 2006, “the report shows 73% of home heating fire deaths attributed to space heaters,” but the press release goes on to state that “Even so, any widely used heating device can be used safely, if the rules of safety are followed.”
The U.S. Department of Energy also has a list of guidelines associated with the buying and installation of a small space heater. They include:
*Only purchase newer model heaters that have all of the current safety features. Make sure the heater has the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) label attached to it.
*Select a heater of the proper size for the room you wish to heat. Do not purchase oversized heaters. Most heaters come with a general sizing table.
*Locate the heater on a level surface away from foot traffic. Be especially careful to keep children and pets away from the heater.
Another precaution to take is to be aware of space heater recalls. For example, as reported on Digital Journal on Dec. 16, 2010, “Walmart and the Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced a recall of 2.2 million electric heaters sold at stores across the country due to the danger of fires and burn hazards.” The voluntary recall involved “units sold under the brand names Flow Pro, Airtech, Aloha Breeze & Comfort Essentials 1500 watt heaters because of reports of possibilities of injury and property damage.“
We are in the latter days of February, one of the months in which "almost half of home heating equipment fires are reported." Winter is not over and it is important to heed the safety rules associated with space heaters, the cause of "73% of home heating fire deaths" including the tragic death of Brenden Poe.
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