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Safe ways to use alternate heating sources this winter

A national report says heating equipment is the leading cause of fires in America. Emergency responders discuss ways to use alternate heating sources safely.

ST. LOUIS — With temperatures expected to drop into the teens this week, people find all different types of ways to heat their homes.

"We definitely see an uptick in fires around this time of year and it's oftentimes attributed to an external heating source," St. Charles City Fire Captain Kelly Hunsel said.

She says a lot of those fires are caused by misusing space heaters.

"Whether it's a loss of life or even just a loss of someone's home, you know that's an extremely personal thing for that resident and that's something that we struggle with every day and the job that we do, but it's especially difficult when you know that it's was 100% preventable," Hunsel said.

The National Fire Protection Association, known as NFPA, reported heating equipment as the leading cause of fires in the United States, averaging almost 50,000 fires a year between 2014-2018.

"No matter what the heat source is, whether it's a space heater, fireplace, or wood burning stove, you want to make sure you have at least three feet clearance from that heat source," Hunsel said.

Sharon Watson with the American Red Cross of Missouri and Arkansas has safety tips for best heating practices listed on their website, with a focus on space heaters.

"It's best to plug them directly into the wall rather than into an extension cord because you can have overheating problems that way," Watson said.

It's also good practice to check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors twice a year.

"Most of the time smoke alarms save lives about 50% of the time when they are in the home and working properly that will cut the chance of a death in a home fire by 50%," Watson said.

The NFPA says fires caused by heating equipment are the most common during cold weather months.

"Follow those really simple safety guidelines and hopefully we can keep everybody safe this winter," Hunsel stated.

If you're looking to buy a space heater, Watson says the best options are the newer versions that will automatically turn off if it's knocked over.