JOPLIN, MO.--- As temperatures drop, the risk of residential fires increase. There are various steps you can take to ensure your home is warm in a safe way. The Redings Mill Fire chief says about 11% of fires are during the colder months and stem from electrical issues. In the past week, electrical fires have destroyed two homes- one in Joplin and one in Neosho. The blazes, displacing families and claiming the life of one man. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, electrical fires become frequent starting in the fall.
"You feel sympathy for them because it was something so simple that started that fire," said Leif Hasty, Redings Mill Firefighter.
Many blazes stem from the improper use of space heaters.
"We see a lot of space heater fires that are in bathrooms and they put them too close to things. Let's say they take a shower, and you dry off and you accidentally drape the towel across the heater or lay the towel in front of it," said Steve Coats, Redings Mill Fire Chief.
Redings Mill Fire Chief Steve Coats says you need to pay attention to what kind of heater you use.
"Make sure you're using the proper one for your electrical system. And when I say proper one, you don't want to use a great big space heater that draws a lot of amp resistance designed maybe for a big shop," said Chief Coats.
Firefighters recommend you plug the heater directly into a wall outlet. Extension cords are also a leading cause of electrical fires during winter months. Especially when you use more than one.
"Basically, you don't want to attach different gauge extension cords to each other. You start with one and you go to the other, it's going to heat up one more than it will the other other, so if that happens, one will heat up and start burning through itself. Gets too hot, catches on fire," said Hasty.
We turned on a heater to see how fast and how hot the cord got. In a matter of three minutes, the heater itself reached over 300 degrees.
"The best thing to do is have working smoke detectors in your home to prevent injury of course," said Chief Coats.
"Smoke alarms, they should be checked on a monthly basis. Batteries should be changed whenever time changes occur," said Hasty.
An average of 50,000 heating fires happen in the United States each year, resulting in an annual average of about 150 deaths.
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