Last night, something horric and saddening happened in Central Florida. Five children, ages 15, 13, 12, 8 and 6, were killed after their home went up into a fiery blaze. It is suspected that the killer fire was started by a space heater.
We see lots of requests for help with heating bills at Modest Needs. It is one of the utilities that low-income families most often have difficulty paying. Adding central heat or floor heat or other, more safer sources of warmth, can cost an enormous amount. Space heaters are often used by those who have no other means of keeping from freezing. And often those space heaters are quite old, and not as safe as some of the newer models.
Sometimes it is the only option. It's that, or let your children shiver through the night, possibly risking frostbite or worse.
As news of this terribly tragic accident that killed five children in Central Florida, it's best to keep in mind some safety tips when using alternative heating sources like kerosene heaters or space heaters:
*Keep space heaters at least three feet from anything that will burn. (sofas, curtains, bedding, etc.)
*Never leave space heaters unattended.
*Do not use space heaters at night while people are sleeping.
*Be aware that pets can knock over space heaters.
*Keep space heaters out of doorways or hallways, where they can be tripped over.
*Aim space heaters at the center of the room.
*Do not overload the extension cord where your space heater is plugged in.
*Do not use space heaters to dry clothes or thaw pipes.
*Turn off space heaters before leaving your home.
My dad is a firefighter, and I have heard horrible stories from him every winter about how many people are hurt or killed due to space heaters. But space heaters are an affordable source of warmth, and so they will continue to be used each frigid season.
If you feel moved by this story out of Florida today, but helpless, browse through some requests for assistance at Modest Needs. You can search by keyword "heat," "gas," "electricity" to aid someone who just might go without heating this upcoming winter. You don't have to give a lot to make a huge difference.
[Photo by Gopal Agarrwal]