GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With the temperatures dropping, an annual problem is on the rise.
West Michigan firefighters are battling more and more residential fires caused by heating equipment. And it’s not just space heaters left too close to curtains.
“It’s the electrical service itself,” said Grand Rapids Fire Department investigator Bill Smith.
In just one week, there’s been a number of examples of what firefighters are worried about.
In Grand Rapids, a blaze broke out in a home in the 1000 block of Garfield Avenue NW. A preliminary investigation suggests an overloaded circuit might be to blame. A space heater was one of the appliances plugged in at the time.
In Hopkins, the power was off in a home that caught fire early Thursday morning. Everyone escaped unharmed. Deputies say a kerosene heater in the home was plugged into a generator.
“It’s a hard thing to go through for these families; they lose a lot of possessions, they lose a place to live. It’s a very difficult time for them,” Smith empathized.
The issue is that a home’s electrical system has a limit.
“With the inclement weather and the low temperatures, people are using space heaters to heat their homes and we’re finding this is overtaxing their electrical systems… We see multiple plugs being used, multi-plug strips, extension cords. We see all sort of things,” said Smith.
Smith said a warning sign is if your circuit breakers trip multiple times.
“We don’t want you to continue to go back and turn them back on and continue to use you appliances,” he said.
Along with avoiding an electrical system overload, the Grand Rapids Fire Department recommends the following:
- Make sure anything that can burn is at least three feet away from furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves, or portable space heaters.
- Never use your oven to heat your home.
- Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
Space heaters were responsible for 40 percent of home heating fires between 2009 and 2013, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Another tip: Make sure you have smoke detectors with fresh batteries.
“Working smoke detectors save lives,” said Smith.