- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 29, 2002

Regional fire officials issued warnings yesterday about the seasonal dangers of space heaters and candles, saying serious burns and property damage caused by fires can be prevented when consumers take necessary precautions.
"Throughout the year, cooking-related incidents are the number one cause of fires and fire-related injuries," said Mark Brady, a spokesman for the Prince George's County Fire department. "But in December, January and February, the cold-weather season, anything that generates heat causes fires."
The most recent incident occurred early yesterday morning, when a 41-year-old Bowie man suffered second- and third-degree burns over 30 percent of his body after his space heater ignited a blanket in a racetrack bunkhouse.
The man, who was taken to the Burn Center at Washington Hospital Center in Northwest, was in critical condition last night, Mr. Brady said, adding that the victim is expected to recover.
The fire began before 6 a.m., while the man was asleep in his Bowie Race Track bunkhouse, Mr. Brady said, causing an estimated $100 in damage to the contents of the room.
Prince George's fire investigators were trying to determine whether the blanket fell off the bed or if the man put the blanket on top of the space heater, he said.
"It appears he did not give the space heater enough space," Mr. Brady said. "It was close to his bed, and that's how he sustained the injuries. There was very little property damage, but his burns are serious."
Space heaters are safest used when plugged directly into an outlet, said Capt. George Williams, an Arlington County Fire Department spokesman. If an extension cord must be used, it should have a surge protector.
He said flammable items such as paper and clothing should not be anywhere near a space heater, and children, whose clothing could catch fire, always should be supervised when near one.
Lt. Oscar Garcia, a Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Department spokesman, said space heaters need at least 3 feet of clearance because if items are too close to the heat they will ignite.
"Anything left too close eventually catches fire," Lt. Garcia said.
He recommended not using kerosene, coal and propane heaters, which must have proper ventilation or fumes will build up. One of the dangers of fuel heaters is the buildup of carbon monoxide, he said.
If inclement weather causes a power outage, Lt. Garcia recommends using a battery-operated flashlight rather than a candle.
Dan Schmidt, a Fairfax County Fire Department spokesman, said unattended candles are a top cause of winter fires.
"A lot of fires are started by unattended candles," Mr. Schmidt said. "People will light a candle, leave the house or room for an extended period of time, and the candle will be exposed to combustible materials. Or the candle will burn so low that the heat generated by the candle will come in contact with combustibles."
He recommends that candles never be left unattended and that the base be noncombustible.
Another top cause of winter fires is improperly disposed fireplace ashes, Mr. Schmidt said. Active coals may burn or melt through the wrong kind of container. If a container is placed outdoors on a wooden deck, the deck is likely to ignite, and flames could reach the house.
"Homeowners should make sure the ashes are completely out and there are no burning coals," Mr. Schmidt said. "Use a metal bucket or can, and keep them away from the house."
Officials from the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department were not available for comment.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide