We’re getting into the colder months, and we all know how cold it can get here in Tulsa. With the prices of oil and gas always going up, we may turn to more cost-effective ways of heating individual spaces, such as space heaters. You might use one to warm up your bathroom before a shower, or at your feet under your desk at work to keep your toes warm. Wherever you use one, it is important to know that these handy devices have some serious risks. Space heaters are a common cause of potentially deadly events like house fires and carbon monoxide poisonings.
Space heater accident statistics
The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) is a nonprofit organization created in 1896 that is “devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.” They have an extensive, regularly updated collection of fire statistics, including how they start, how to prevent fires, and many more safety tips.
In a report released early in 2022, “an average of 45,800 home heating fires occurred each year between 2015 and 2019: resulting in an estimated 480 civilian deaths, 1,350 civilian injuries, and $1 billion in direct property damage.”
Over 45,000 homes caught fire due to space heaters, accounting for just over 12% of all 358,500 reported house fires. As far as home heating equipment fires, space heaters are the most commonly responsible culprit, contributing to the majority of deaths and injuries at 81% and 80%, respectively.
It’s obvious that though we may see these as simple products we use daily in the cold months, they are just as commonly found to be the cause behind far too many house fires in America.
What causes space heater fires, and how can I avoid them?
There are several ways in which a space heater can cause a dangerous situation. The operating instructions that come with most space heaters are important to follow, as they point out exactly what to do to avoid a fire.
- Do not let your space heater within three feet of any flammable objects, such as blankets or curtains.
- If you are running your space heater off of a generator, it is critical that the generator be run only outdoors where there is plenty of air circulation. Heat plus flammable fumes are a deadly combination, creating a recipe prone for an explosion or fire.
- It is important that when you buy a space heater that it has an automatic shut-off mode in case the machine falls over.
- Do not put the space heater on a carpeted floor or a surface with a fabric on it for the previously stated reasons. If a space heater tips over, it may cause your carpeting to catch fire.
Injuries from space heaters
While one can suffer many types of injuries due to a fire caused by a space heater, we’re going to examine the two most common and most life-threatening injuries.
Thermal burn injuries. A major injury that causes agonizing pain, takes a long time to heal, and can lead to further life-threatening conditions is a severe burn. We know that first- and second-degree burns usually come from sun burns or heat burns and do not usually cause life-long damage. However, when it comes to dangerous burns that need immediate medical attention, we should look at third- and fourth-degree burns.
Beyond the painful loss of skin these injuries also can progress to damage muscles, soft tissues, and nerves. It should be noted that fourth-degree burns are often fatal, even if not immediately, due to the likelihood the victim suffering from an infection. The skin is an important part of your immune system as the first layer of defense for your body. When your skin is gone, there is nothing protecting you from germs and infections.
Carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that comes from burning wood, gas, coal, and kerosene. Many space heaters use gas or kerosene as a heating source, so it is advised to use these in a well-ventilated area. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Breathing in carbon monoxide fumes prevents the body from using oxygen properly, which can harm the brain, heart, and other organs. People with health problems, such as heart and lung disease, are at greater risk for harm. Infants, children, pregnant women, and older adults are also at greater risk.”
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- Chest pain
- Loss of consciousness
- Blurry vision
If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to leave the area immediately and get fresh air. Your body needs oxygen. Carbon monoxide is also highly flammable, so having a vented space heater is important not just for oxygen, but to prevent explosions and fires. Some new models of space heaters have monitors that will shut off the heater should it detect that the oxygen level around it has decreased.
If you’re injured by a space heater fire
There are a lot of ways in which you could get injured from a space heater, and it may have been due to something you had no control over. If you were injured from a fire that was caused by a space heater, then you should seek compensation for your injuries. A good premises liability lawyer knows that when you are on someone else’s property, they have a duty to keep everyone on their property safe.
If you have been injured by a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a space heater, then you may be able to receive compensation. When someone’s neglect causes your injury, you can file a personal injury or premises liability lawsuit against them, as you should not have to pay for the treatment of your injuries. The pain and suffering you are experiencing is enough.
At Biby Law Firm, our Tulsa injury attorneys will work to ensure that you secure the compensation you deserve and need. If you have been involved in a space heater accident, call us at 918-574-8458 or use our contact form. Initial consultations are always free.
Jacob Biby has spent his legal career helping folks just like you get the resources they need after an injury. He completed his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State University and earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Tulsa in 2008. Jacob is licensed to practice in all Oklahoma state and federal courts, and has limited his career to representing individuals and families who were injured by the negligence of other people or corporations. Learn more about Jacob Biby.