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WVU fire safety expert offers important reminders regarding alternative heating, other hazards

A man in a gold and blue shirt smiles for the camera

Mark Lambert, Fire Service Extension director and assistant professor, WVU Extension Service, is available to speak about fire safety and prevention following recent deadly fires in the United States. (WVU Photo)

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Deadly fires in two major U.S. cities recently claimed the lives of 31 people. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, investigators believe a child playing with matches ignited a fire that left 12 people dead. In New York City, investigators believe a malfunction in a space heater ignited a blaze that claimed the lives of 19 residents. West Virginia University Extension expert, Mark Lambert, notes that many fires can be prevented through proper planning, including implementing simple safety measures in your home. 


“With colder temperatures making their way across the nation, people will be using space heaters and other heating sources to try to keep warm. It’s important to understand the safety hazards the sources of heat can present. Be sure to turn off radiant or electric space heaters before going to bed, especially older models that are prone to tipping over and have no safety shut-off abilities. I also would encourage you not to leave them on when leaving your home. The recent fire in New York City is believed to have been caused by a space heater malfunction. Sadly, far too many people, including entire families, have died from fires created by a space heater.”

Sleep with your doors closed. Doing so gives you a 70% more likelihood of getting out alive. The New York City fire mentions that emergency stairwell doors and even apartment doors were left open. If this is true, the smoke and heat had an all-access pass to spread both horizontally and vertically. It would also likely mean sudden death for someone using the exit stairs. Be sure to close the doors and remove anything blocking the doors.”

“Teach children proper fire safety. The recent Philadelphia fire may have been caused by a small child who was playing with matches and caught the Christmas tree on fire. We recommend having these conversations with your children at an early age and continuing those conversations over time as a reminder.”

“Most importantly, always have an escape plan. We encourage you to do this with your family when you move into your home. Always include two ways out of your home apartment. Once you leave the home, never go back in, even to get your pet or your valuables.” - Mark Lambert, Fire Service Extension director and assistant professor, WVU Extension Service

West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, area of expertise or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVU Today



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