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Tips for safe heater use offered

December 28, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Winter brings with it an increase in the number of fires caused by the improper use of heaters, but Hagerstown Fire Department Chief Gary Hawbaker, the U.S. Product Safety Commission and the National Kerosene Heater Association offer some tips on how to avoid a blaze this season.

The chief causes of fires from the improper use of space heaters or kerosene heaters are, "people will put the wrong (fuel) in them, store them close to combustibles, or put them in a place where a kid or dog will knock them over," Hawbaker said. "It's important to read the manufacturer's instructions."

Although Hawbaker said most new space heaters automatically shut down when knocked over, it is important - especially when using older heaters - to put them in safe places.

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Hawbaker said that heater fires usually are caused when combustibles ignite.

A small fire in the Beaver Creek area Monday started when a kerosene heater that contained some gas was being filled and it ignited, Mount Aetna Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Terry Stouffer said.

"The woman that was filling it - her pants caught on fire," he said.

Stouffer said the woman, who was not seriously injured, refused medical treatment when rescue crews arrived at the stone house on Country Store Lane.

If you're using a kerosene heater to keep warm this winter, the U.S. Product Safety Commission and the National Kerosene Heater Association offer the following safety tips:

· Only use water-clear 1 K grade kerosene. Gasoline cannot be used as a substitute. Even in small amounts, gasoline or other volatile solvents mixed with kerosene can greatly increase the chance of fire or an explosion.

· Keep kerosene in its own distinct container separate from a gasoline container to make sure you don't use contaminated fuel or the wrong fuel by mistake. Gasoline is typically kept in red containers; kerosene is usually kept in blue containers.

· Never fill the tank inside the home. Refuel the tank outdoors, away from any combustible materials, and only after the heater has been turned off and has had a chance to cool down. Never refill the tank above the full mark. The space above the full line is there to give fuel room to expand, preventing leakage when the heater is turned on.

· If uncontrolled flaming or a flare-up occur, do not move or carry the heater because it will make the fire worse. Use the heater's manual shut-off switch - not all kerosene heaters have them - to turn off the heater, a step that should extinguish the fire. Leave the house immediately and call the fire department if the fire is not out.

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