Do not plug space heaters into power strips, fire officials warn

As temperatures continue to drop across the country, many people turn to space heaters to warm up their home or workspace. While a space heater can be a great solution to a chilly environment, fire officials are warning against plugging them into extension cords or power strips.

Because power strips and extension cords are not equipped to handle the extra current that is required to power a space heater, they can overheat and cause a fire. Heating elements inside a space heater can get up to 600 degrees, according to Chicago’s WFLD-TV. Space heaters should only be plugged directly into a wall, and you should never leave a space heater unattended.

A recent Facebook post from Utah’s North Davis Fire District showed the dramatic effect a space heater can have on a power strip.

“Nearly half of all home heating fires occurred in December, January and February,” the National Fire Protection Association said on its website. “Space heaters, whether portable or stationary, accounted for two of every five of home heating fires.”

Other safety guidelines regarding the use of space heaters and hotplates include keeping anything that can burn at least three feet away from anything that can burn, creating a three-foot “kid-free zone” around them and turning them off while not in use.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 25,000 home fires a year are traced back to space heaters, and they cause about 300 deaths annually.

house fire photo
Getty Images | David McNew

“A lot of these fires kind of have a common theme,” Sterling Rahe, public information officer with the Toledo Fire Department, told WTOL last year. “Things were left unattended. Space heaters, candles.”

Local fire departments have also issued warning reminders to ensure people stay safe during the winter months when space heater use increases, like this Facebook post from the Bartow County Fire Department in Georgia:

“With cold weather upon us, please use caution with space heaters,” fire officials wrote in the post.

Firefighters also recommend that you check your smoke alarms monthly and that you have two ways out of every room in the event of a fire.