Firefighters say to use caution when heating homes this Winter

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - With the cold weather in the forecast, firefighters want to make sure residents are safe while heating their homes this Winter.

Firefighters battle more house fires in January in the Lowcountry than any other month, and many of the blazes are caused by portable heaters and fireplaces.

"In the Lowcountry, we don't really deal with cold that often," said Bianca Sancic of the North Charleston Fire Department. "So when we get into those cold snaps, we really have to be conscious of what we're doing with our heaters."

Sancic said last winter, she was warming her bedroom with a space heater when she saw it spark. She was able to put out the small fire, but said this served as an important reminder about how quickly a spark can get out of control.

"When you're awake and aware and in the room, you can react to that small fire. When you go to sleep, you don't know it is burning," Sancic said.

She said many people go to sleep with their heaters on, and that can be very dangerous. Sancic said 3,000 people die in house fires in the U.S. every year.

Employees at local home improvement stores said with the cold weather approaching, they've had to restock the space heater display several times.

"They've been flying off the shelves," said Jerry O'Connor of Home Depot.

Sancic said when folks set up their heaters, it's important to remember to keep them at least three feet away from anything that can catch on fire.

Also, don't put a rug or a couch on an electrical heater's cord because that breaks down the wires and could spark a blaze.

Sancic said if you have central heat and are just turning it on for the first time this season, it's normal to notice a dusty, burning smell.

But, she said if that doesn't go away within a few minutes, call the fire department.

It's also important to make sure your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly.

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