Dangers Of Space Heaters

The warning is clear: Keep combustible material such as furniture, papers, clothes, and curtains at least three feet away from a space heater. Not following those guidelines has been deadly in East Texas. Just two Sundays ago, two elderly people in Longview died in a house fire. Investigators suspect a space heater was the cause.

"We've probably had at least three incidences that have either been confirmed or potential fires that have been caused in Tyler since the fall to winter season has started," fire investigator Laura Mason said.

A common cause of fires is placing space heaters too close to your bed. In the middle of the night, if you accidentally fling the covers onto the space heater, it can easily start a fire. And the fire burns fast. In our demonstration, within a matter of minutes, a pillow was gone. Even if nothing touches or falls on the space heater, the heat itself can dry surfaces on the bed, and a draft of air can ignite a blaze. Mason says both electric and gas heaters can cause a fire.

"Be very careful that if it's electric that the cord is plugged directly into the outlet or into a circuit breaker strip and not ever use an extension cord between that unit and the wall, " Mason said. "If it's gas powered, make sure that it is burning with a blue flame."

Firefighters are sending this message of caution so this demonstration doesn't become a real scenario. Fire officials also want to remind you to check every six months to make sure your smoke detector is working properly. And they say don't leave your space heater on if you're not at home.

Julie Tam, reporting.