Space heater blamed in fire

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Shelly Birkelo
Thursday, January 24, 2013

— Space heaters are associated with nearly 25,000 residential fires each year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Such was the case Wednesday morning when the tenant in a second-story apartment at 156 Cherry St. left one on. After the tenant left his apartment, the heater ignited nearby bedding materials, said Bill Ruchti, Janesville Fire Department shift commander.

Another tenant in the three-apartment complex reported the fire just before 9:30 a.m.

The second tenant heard smoke alarms going off and smelled smoke, but called someone else before dialing 911, Ruchti said. Fire officials want residents to call 911 when they hear smoke alarms.

"Seconds are critical when it comes to a fire," he said.

Though the fire was contained to the room housing the space heater, heavy smoke damage was reported throughout the apartment and to another second-floor apartment. Water damage also was reported to a ground-level apartment.

Structure damage is estimated at $40,000, and damage to contents is estimated at $10,000, according to a news release from the Janesville Fire Department.

The building is owned by Park City Rentals of Janesville.

Ruchti also reminded residents to take precautions when using space heaters.

"First and foremost, don't leave them on when you're gone or (a home is) unattended," he said. "Second, make adequate clearance to combustibles when you're using them."

Janesville firefighters remained on scene for more than one hour, and Alliant Energy was called to shut off the power.

A firefighter was injured with a back strain while working on the scene.

Tenants in two upper apartments were displaced, according to the news release. Utility crews hoped to have furnaces in the building up and running soon so the tenant in the ground-level apartment wouldn't have to relocate, Ruchti said.

Space heater safety tips

Here are some Consumer Product Safety Commission safety tips for buying and using space heaters:

-- Select a space heater with a guard around the flame area or heating element. Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep the heater at least 3 feet from bedding, drapes, furniture or other flammable materials.

-- Choose a space heater that has been tested and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters meet specific safety standards.

-- Keep doors open to the rest of the house if you are using an unvented fuel-burning space heater. This helps prevent pollutant buildup and promotes proper combustion. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to provide sufficient combustion air to prevent CO production.

-- Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep. Never place a space heater close to any sleeping person.

-- Turn the space heater off if you leave the area. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.

-- Have a smoke detector with fresh batteries on each level of the house and a carbon monoxide detector outside your sleeping area.

-- Be aware that mobile homes require specially designed heating equipment. Only electric or vented fuel-fired heaters should be used.

-- Have gas and kerosene space heaters inspected annually.

Consumers who would like more information can receive a free booklet, "What You Should Know about Space Heaters," by placing a request at www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/hard.html or by sending a postcard to: "Space Heater Booklet," U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C. 20207.

Last updated: 7:56 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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