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West Virginia’s frozen temperatures create indoor heating dangers

By BISHOP NASH

The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Although space heaters aren’t intended as permanent solutions for indoor heating, the recent deep freeze across the country has pressed more than a few into service in recent days, some as a home’s main heat source.

But improper space heater use is often in part to blame for the uptick in structure fire calls fire departments receive during the colder months — sparking either at the heating element itself or through the increased electrical strains the devices place on the home’s wiring.

“As cold as it is, a lot of people try to use them permanently (as a primary heating source),” said Capt. Matt Winters, fire marshal at the Huntington Fire Department. “The biggest (precaution) is to keep 36 inches of clear space all the way around the heater.

“Don’t set it next to furniture or pile things next to it if you have to use them.”

Built without long-term use in mind, Winters suggested switching space heaters off every few hours to allow them to cool down. Heaters should also be equipped with a “tip switch” — a mechanism that automatically shuts off power should the heater be knocked over. Most newer models are made with this precaution.

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