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How to safely use and buy a space heater

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GERMANTOWN, Tenn. — There are startling statistics as the mercury begins to drop below freezing.

Space heaters cause 40 percent of home heating fires and 84% percent of home heating fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Here in the Mid-South, we’ve seen some of the devastation caused by not properly heating your home.

Just last week fire officials said a space heater could not be ruled out as the cause of a trailer fire in Tipton County that took the life of a 2-year-old boy and his 4-year-old sister.

After seeing how many families are affected by these fires, we went to the Germantown Fire Department for some insight. We met with Fire Marshal Jody Dwyer.

”We purchased a space heater, and we want to see if the safety features work,” said Dwyer.

In their controlled fire training room, they placed a bed sheet, towel and curtains against a space heater.

“Once the material on the bed started to burn, the safety features designed into the space heater cut the space heater off to keep it from igniting.”

Exactly what it should do, but damage was done. The test sheet was burned and browned after it was on top of the heater for less than three minutes!

“If you have a space heater that does not have safety features built in, this could be a lot worse,” explained Dwyer.

Dwyer said it’s important to always keep people and belongings three feet from the heater. He also said to make sure the heater has a feature that turns it off when it’s tipped over.

“You wanna have a thermostat that automatically cuts it off to keep it from overheating, and that’s what this space heater did.”

Another thing to think about is every space heater has a vent you need to make sure doesn’t get clogged with lint, similar to your dryer.

“And then the lint will eventually ignite, too much would stop air flow,” he said.

Dwyer said older space heaters don’t usually have the safety features built in. He said you can find safe ones at many stores starting at around $24. But even then you must be mindful.

“Just one failure from that safety feature, and that would’ve ignited.”

The fire department is also asking you to be extra careful with candles and make sure your Christmas tree has plenty of water, because they can dry out quickly.