Space heater overload! How to avoid a fire hazard

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A lot of people use space heaters to warm up living rooms, bedrooms and even their work cubicle at the office. But plugging one into the wrong outlet or plugging in more than one heater can create a dangerous situation.

Investigators blame a space heater for this Christmas time fire which destroyed a Kansas City, Kan., home. Seven-year-old Damarion Scott woke to find smoke and flames in the home and managed to wake others up and get out before flames consumed the house.  

"We grabbed the first cover and ran outside," Scott said.  

Despite potential dangers, many homeowners use space heaters during the bitter cold.  A.B. May electrical experts said plugging more than one space heater into outlets that feed into the same electrical circuit is asking for trouble. 

"It'll typically cause the breaker to overload and trip," electrician Mark Hampton said.   

But how many homeowners actually know the electrical layout of their house? Hampton said an easy way to find out is to turn off all switches on the electrical panel, flip on each one individually to find the areas in the house powered by each switch.

An extension cord is another thing to avoid using with space heaters.  

"The fire department tells us it's a fire hazard and you can create fires from extension cords. They are not designed to have large loads run on them," Hampton said.

Also, if you notice dark markings around the electrical outlet or the space heater plug in, stop using it.

"It's telling you, you have a bad outlet. Once this goes bad, you can't use it any longer," he said. 

If you do use a space heater, of course, keep it away from furniture, clothing or papers and anything that can spark a fire.

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