Fire officials warn of dangers of space heaters following deadly NYC fire

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- New York City officials found a space heater started one of the deadliest apartment fires in years on Sunday morning in New York City. The fire killed 17 people and injured around 44 others at a Bronx apartment building.

The incident is the deadliest fire in New York City in three decades and one of the deadliest in the country in years.

While Sunday's blaze was exceptionally deadly, fires caused by heaters are very common.

"We see it on TV and it sometimes it isn't very real because it happened to somebody else but we just have to be prepared that it can happen to us and if you're prepared, the better off you're going to be to avoid these tragedies," explained Jonathan Hans, a Firefighter/EMT for the Northern Wake Fire Department.

Around 500 people have died and 1,350 people were injured in heat-equipment fires from 2014-2018, according to a 2021 report from the National Fire Protection Association. Many of the fires stem from people failing to clean heating equipment. The proximity of the heater to combustible materials is another main factor leading to the fire spreading. Officials caution individuals to keep space heaters 3 feet away from other items.

Locally, space heaters have been responsible for destroying homes and killing North Carolinians just in the past few years.

Last January, two men died after combustible materials were left too close to a space heater in Durham.

North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey issued a warning regarding portable heaters last February after one destroyed a mobile home in Moore County.

The U.S. Fire Administration found fires caused by heating killed six people in North Carolina since 2020 and 22 people in the last decade.

"It's not that it can happen to somebody else, it's that it can happen to us and we need to be prepared and be ready for when it does and so that again check those smoke alarms make sure we know at least two ways out of every room if that's in your house, but it's also in a restaurant in a house of worship in a movie theater. Always know two ways out and make sure you have that escape plan in practice," Hans said.

Causey said five people have died in North Carolina from fires so far in 2022. Last year 134 North Carolinians died in a fire. Causey said around half of those deaths stem from a cooking-related fire.

"They're absolutely preventable, and that people have to have fire safety in mind. First and foremost you need a working smoke detector. You make sure you have smoke detectors in your home on every floor on every level and in every bedroom or in front of every bedroom," Causey said.

Causey said the state is working with fire departments across the state to educate people about smoke detectors and install working alarms throughout the community.

Other tips:
  • Keeping kids three feet from home fireplaces and space heaters.
  • Don't use your oven to heat your home.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters, and central heating equipment according to local codes and manufacturer's instructions.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys inspected and cleaned every year by a qualified professional.
  • Turn portable heaters off when leaving a room or going to bed.
  • Test smoke alarms at least once a month
  • Sleep with bedroom doors closed
  • Don't overload sockets


For other, heat-related fire tips, visit: https://www.ncosfm.gov/community-risk-reduction/fire-prevention-education/heating

As communities continue to work to keep residents safe, the Northern Wake County Fire Department is seeking volunteers.
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