Space Heaters and Portable Electric Heaters Create Fire Risk

[caption id="attachment_1414" align="alignleft" width="160"] Image from CPSC[/caption] As Oklahoma temperatures get cooler, many people turn to space heaters or portable electric heaters to stay warm in their homes and offices. Unfortunately, many of these small heaters are unsafe and may cause significant burn injuries or may even pose a fire hazard. In some cases, a fire may be caused by unsafe operation of the space heater, but in many cases, the fire or burn is caused by a defective or dangerous product. Since the beginning of the year, thousands of portable electric heaters have been recalled by their manufacturers and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Recalled heaters include Honeywell portable electric heaters, Lasko portable electric heaters, and "Climate Keeper" portable ceramic heaters. In 2010, Walmart recalled two million heaters including the Flow Pro, Airtech, Aloha Breeze & Comfort Essentials 1500 watt heaters.  According to the CPSC, these heaters could malfunction, causing them to overheat, smoke, melt, or catch on fire. Walmart received twenty-one complaints about the heaters; in eleven of these complaints, the damage spread beyond the heater itself. Four people were injured; three required medical treatment for burn injuries and smoke inhalation. Space heaters have long been considered a risky way to stay warm. Although improvements have been made, and many newer heaters remain cool to the touch, they may still be a burn or fire hazard. The United States Fire Administration (USFA) reports that an estimated 900 portable heater fires occur each year in the United States. The USFA says that, while portable heater fires account for only two percent of residential fires, they are responsible for fully twenty-five percent of fatal residential fires. The CPSC recommends the following ways to reduce fire hazards associated with the use of portable heaters:

  • Never operate a heater you suspect may be damaged.
  • Visit the CPSC website to check for recall information before operating your heater.
  • Never leave a heater unattended.
  • Never operate a portable heater while sleeping.
  • Keep flammable and combustible materia;--including paper, clothing, sheets and bedding, curtains, and sofas--at least three feet from the heater's front, rear, and sides.
  • Be sure the heater's plug fits tightly and securely in the wall outlet.
  • Do not use a heater with a power strip or an extension cord.
  • Only use a heater on a flat, stable surface to reduce the risk of tipping over.
  • When purchasing a heater, check for an OSHA safety certification mark.
  • Keep electric heaters away from water, and never touch a heater when you are wet.
If a heater malfunctions, or if its unreasonable risk of harm causes injury, you may be able to obtain financial compensation from the manufacturer and/or distributor of the defective product.  A personal injury lawyer may be able to assist you.