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Electric space heaters can be dangerous in winter

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LAWTON Okla_ Electric space heaters can be dangerous as the winter days get colder.

Overnight temperatures are now regularly dropping below freezing, and people are using electric space heaters. Some don't use them correctly, and they can quickly create a danger.

Last Thursday a family in Stephens County lost their mobile home after a space heater ignited clothes sitting next to it. The fire then spread throughout the home.  

Lawton Deputy Fire Marshal Michael Wright said it hasn't been a problem yet, but he said the coldest part of winter is still ahead, and it's only a matter of time.

Wright knows how important it is to safely operate an electric space heater. Just a few winters ago, he had his own close call with one.

"I had a space heater at my house," Wright said. "It was a radiant style space heater that didn't have any exposed elements. I thought it was working okay."

He said a closer inspection revealed it wasn't.

"I pulled the end of the plug out of the outlet, Wright said, "And I saw that it had been heated up and actually was melting the outlet."

Wright said inspecting a space heater is just one thing people should do. Others include maintaining a three foot space between it and anything that can ignite. Wright said you should not plug in an electric space heater to an extension cord due the amount of energy it needs to operate. He said you should never leave it unattended and never use a space heater that has not been tested.

"Most people take it for granted," Wright said. "They use that space heater all the time and don't think about where they're placing it or where they're using it."

Wright stresses the use of working smoke detectors and fire escape routes. He said families should have both in case the unexpected occurs.

For more information on electric heater safety, you can check out the national fire protection association website at www.nfpa.org.

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