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Space heaters should always be used with great caution

With my blood thinned out still from the long, hot summer, Friday night’s chilly temps made me turn on the heat for the first time since last winter.

Within a few minutes, the house smelled like burnt hair and dust as if per the usual after turning the heater on for the first time. A few minutes later, the house was toasty warm and I went to bed.

A couple hours later I woke up shivering.

The heat had stopped working. I was no surprise really. I live in an older home and it seems each year someone has to come out to do something to get the heat working properly.

I could have handled the cold myself, but I had my grandbabies spending the night and the National Weather Service app on my phone read 37 degrees.

Grudgingly, I got up and went to the storage closet to dig out my space heater. It’s a small radiator, actually, and is apparently safer than the old hot wire heaters, but they aren’t without risk completely.

I think I slept 10 minutes that night. Every few minutes I was looking over to make sure the heater wasn’t on fire or that nothing was too close to it.

One winter our heater was out for two weeks and we relied on space heaters all day long.

Having written my fair share of stories of houses burning to the ground because of space heaters, I’m beyond paranoid when it comes to using them.

But that’s how it should be.

Extreme caution always needs to be used when using any kind of space heater. If possible, I avoid using them at night and just throw on a few more blankets. I only turn them on if I’m in the room and make sure there’s nothing within 3 feet of the heater.

Space heaters cause about one-third of all winter house fires and 80 percent of all winter-heating fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Space heaters also account for more than 70 percent of all winter fire injuries and half of all property damage caused in heating fires.

Space heaters aren’t the only source of increased house fires during the winter months. Bonfires, fire pits, Christmas lights and cooking during the holidays all keep firefighters busy, and in many cases, leave families mourning the loss of loved ones instead of enjoying the holidays together.

On Sunday, five people were killed in Georgia when their house burned down. Firefighters suspect it was a fire pit near the back porch that caught the house on fire.

Fortunately, Saturday night was a bit less cold and the heater will hopefully be fixed this week before another cold snap arrives.

Just to be on the safe side, I’ve pulled out my Snuggie and put the space heater away for now.

alyssa schnugg is Senior Writer at the EAGLE. Write to her at alyssa.schnugg@oxfordeagle.com