RCFS: ‘Space heaters are the main cause of fire-related deaths’

According to Rabun County Assistant Fire Chief Justin Upchurch, heating equipment is the main cause of fire-related deaths and occur the most during January and February.

“Heating equipment is the leading cause for fire-related deaths,” he said. “There are some simple steps you can take to prevent them from happening.”

First, he recommended if using an indoor space heater, to make sure you have 3-foot zone away from any person(s) or object(s).

“We encourage you to have a 3-foot kid zone, not just for kids but for objects as well because heaters need that space. Also, never use your oven or stove for heating,” he said. “That’s not what they were designed for.”

Another key safety tip Upchurch offered is to make sure you shut any heating device off before you leave them unattended for an extended amount of time.

“Turn heaters off when yoy go to bed or when you leave the room. Most newer heaters have an automatic shutoff in case they tip over so we encourage you to buy those opposed to the older models,” Upchurch said. “Also, make sure wherever you place the heater, that it is on flat and stable ground.”

Upchurch added that a lot of times, people think that its the heater that actually causes the fire, but sometimes it can be due to another contributing factor such as faulty wiring.

“When people say it’s the heater that caused the fire, that’s not always the case. It could be due to a number of factors, the heater could have overloaded the circuit or they had the heater plugged into an extension cord,” he said. “It can be because of a heater, but not directly due to the heater like what people think of.”

Most of the calls Rabun County Fire Services will run during the winter months are indeed due to space heaters or chimneys, apart from medical calls.

“Most of the time if we’re going to run something during the winter months it’s going to be either space heater-related or chimney fires,” he said.