Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Space Heaters a Common Fire Cause; Firefighters Advise That Smoke Detectors Are an Important House Staple

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Space Heaters a Common Fire Cause; Firefighters Advise That Smoke Detectors Are an Important House Staple

Article excerpt

Byline: SHAKAYA ANDRES

Working smoke detectors save lives.

As the temperatures dip, that's the message Jacksonville Beach Fire Marshal Steve Sciotto and St. Johns County Fire Rescue spokesman Jeremy Robshaw are stressing.

A detector, along with noticing smoke coming from beneath a bedroom door, could have saved a 90-year-old Jacksonville Beach resident and her family last year.

"They are the most important things you can have in your house," Sciotto said. "There should be one in each bedroom and in the corridor leading to the bedroom."

Unsupervised space heaters near bedding or other objects is the leading cause of house fires in the Beaches area between October and February, officials said.

"We find that space heaters are more of a problem with the elderly," Sciotto said. "When it dips down into the 40s, that's when they pull the heater out."

In Ponte Vedra Beach, space heaters are not as common because many people have central air and heat and fireplaces. Last year, Robshaw said, no house fires were caused by the heating devices.

In Jacksonville Beach last year, however, the fire department responded to two house fires caused by space heaters.

Lt. Ronnie Rabon, one of the firefighters who responded to the 90-year-old woman's house, was burnt while fighting the fire.

"It was very hot," he said. "The smoke was so thick you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. It wasn't long before we put the fire out."

Although the majority of U.S. homes have at least one smoke alarm, a significant percentage of those alarms are found to be malfunctioning or broken, Robshaw said. In most cases, where a fire death occurs, smoke alarms were not present.

"Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths result from fires in homes with either no smoke alarm or no working smoke alarm," he said.

The fire department recommends that people get new smoke alarms every 10 years and change their batteries every six months when the time changes to ensure that they are operating properly. …

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