Space heater fires on the rise - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Space heater fires on the rise

(KFVS) -
The American Red Cross has responded to 20 fires this past weekend, twelve in southern-central Illinois and eight in southeast Missouri. 

What is more alarming is that the American Red Cross has opened 65 cases involving fires in southeast Missouri since January 1. More than half of those 65 fire cases have been due to space heaters. 

We talked with Kate Struttman, Disaster Program Manager with the American Red Cross, who said that space heaters should not be the primary source to heating a home and should only be used while people are at home.

Struttman also urges people to keep a close eye on their space heaters and allow plenty of space between the heaters and surrounding items.

She said to be sure to turn off those space heaters at night and when leaving the home. 

Struttman said in their eastern Missouri region, they have had fires that killed roughly 20 people in 2015 alone. This includes six adults and two children in the southeast Missouri area.

Of those 20 killed by fires, space heaters were to blame in house fires that killed three people in Poplar Bluff and also three in University City.

Struttman said that on average they spend a little more than $600 per fire case in assistance.

As of January 1, they have spent more than $39,000 in assistance just in southeast Missouri alone.

Money that comes from donations.

The American Red Cross has offered a free smoke alarm installation campaign across eastern Missouri, and including 13 counties covering southeast Missouri.

The American Red Cross in Illinois has launched a similar Home Fires Campaign as well.

The Red Cross is providing this service to help minimize deaths in fires due to the lack of working smoke detectors. 

Struttman said the new program is a different way to approach safety.

She wants the people that need a working smoke detector to call them and so they can come out and install detectors for them.

In Illinois, the Red Cross is installing smoke alarms in fire-affected neighborhoods as well. 

All people need to do is call, leave their name, address, phone number and a good time to call them back. 

She urges people to think about safety and make sure their smoke alarms are checked and in working order.

Also with the time change approaching, Struttman reminds people that it is a good time to change their batteries.

Another concern is that people feel they have more time to be able to get out of a home safely after the smoke alarm is activated.

Fire experts say that people may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it's too late to get out. 

A recent poll shows that most Americans (62 percent) mistakenly believe that they have at least five minutes or more to escape a burning home.

About 18 percent believe they have 10 minutes or more to escape, which is five times as long as they really do on average.

The Red Cross also stresses for families to make a plan in case of a fire. Take some time to plan out what each person will do if they see smoke or flames in the home. Some suggest having a meeting place outside by a tree or wherever would be convenient in a time of disaster.

The Red Cross also wants people to know they need volunteers and any help is appreciated.

For any information, just call your nearest Red Cross agency.

Also, if you would like to make a donation to support the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, you can make an easy $10 donation by texting REDCROSS to 90999 or visit redcross.org for more information.

The Red Cross says that on average seven times a day, a person will die in this country in a home fire. Struttman stresses that working smoke alarms cut fire deaths in half. 

Fore any questions, concerns or to set up an installation in Eastern or Southeast Missouri call 573-335-9471 or 1-888-335-9471 or for information in Illinois call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

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