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To prevent winter fires, fire chiefs urge caution of space heaters, alternative heating

Tom Magnarelli
Syracuse fire truck outside of city hall.

As dangerously cold wind chills come into the area, using alternative heating appliances can potentially cause fires in homes. The Syracuse Fire Department said the number of fires that occur, tend to go up around this time of year.

Dep. Chief Elton Davis said heating equipment is the second leading cause of fires in homes after cooking fires. He stressed not to use a stove or gas-fired appliance to heat a home because of the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning.

“It’s a gas that you can’t smell, you can’t taste, you can’t see it, but it’s a silent killer,” Davis said.

Davis said space heaters can also create a lot of issues.  He said to never use an extension cord with a space heater. Always plug them directly into the wall and make sure the cord is not tucked under a rug.

“You want to keep them away from flammable items like clothing, decorations and furniture," Davis said. "Strive to keep a three foot perimeter around any space heaters you might have in your home. When you leave the room or go to bed, turn those space heaters off.”

Fire Chief Michael Monds, who was sworn in Thursday, said space heaters should be kept away from a bed or couch.

"All it takes is the right amount of heat to get a sheet or a piece of cushion, or anything with a sofa going to a fire," Monds said. "Once there is a fire, then you have to go into a whole different mode. The best answer is prevention. Think about what you're doing. Look to make sure everything is safe before you plug something in that you need to keep warm."

Monds said the best type of fire prevention is a working smoke detector.

“The smoke detectors are what save lives," Monds said. "There could be a small fire but the smoke detector is going to catch that.”

The department said to candles should be on a nonflammable surface and kept away from children and pets. Residents should make sure their home has a working furnace and keep fire hydrants clear of snow.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.