By SEANNA ADCOX
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - State Fire Marshal Robert Polk is urging people to use space heaters and wood stoves safely as temperatures drop below 20 degrees across South Carolina.
Polk said Wednesday that alternative heating sources are the biggest cause of fires between December and March.
According to his office, 94 people died in fires last year. That's a nearly 50 percent increase from five years ago and the highest number of fire-related deaths since 2000.
Sixteen people died in December alone. Polk says fires often result from people putting space heaters too close to their beds or windows.
The National Weather Service says temperatures early Thursday will drop to 12 in the Upstate and 15 in Columbia. That comes close to Columbia's record low for Jan. 8 of 12 degrees set in 1970.