GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Last month in Kentwood, a 19-year-old woman and a 12 year old girl died after fire broke out at a home on 48th Street.

While there is still no official cause, investigators were looking at an electrical issue, possibly involving a space heater, as a contributing factor. 

Whether your furnace goes out or you just need to bring in some extra heat, you need to be cautious when using a space heater.

Keep them away from curtains, furniture and other items that can easily catch fire and plug them straight into a wall receptacle.

Because they draw so much power, space heaters can overload a power strip or extension cord.  

“That draw could really pose a problem, especially if you have an old system and your circuit breakers are not what they should be in the panel,” said Grand Rapid Fire Department Captain Bill Smith.

And if you lose power, that could present a whole other list of dangers.

As an inspector with GRFD, Smith has seen it all. 

“Where they’ve used camp stoves, or portable heating devices that are not meant to be inside … dragging them homes to heat and they think they’re going to be ok,” he explained.

Open flames cause a fire danger and carbon monoxide is generated by the devices.

Candles are another danger, especially when there’s a risk of kids or pets knocking them over. Smith said make sure they’re extinguished before you leave the room.

If the power does go off, many of us will haul the generator out, creating another CO poisoning risk.  

“Keep them outside,” said Smith. “We definitely want to make sure the exhaust is away from the home. That it’s not near the windows or doors.”

The best way to stay safe is to follow the advice to avoid those problems. But you also need to prepare for the unexpected.

“With all the extra people coming in to your homes over the holidays, make sure they know how to get out,” said Smith. “And most importantly, make sure you have working smoke alarms inside your home.”