DC house fire prompts safety tips for portable heaters

WASHINGTON — As extreme cold grips the region, D.C. fire officials are issuing a warning about portable heaters following a house fire that broke out Monday morning in Southeast.

The fire, which caused injuries and damaged a home on Brothers Place just off Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, was sparked by an overloaded electrical circuit.

“A component of that was a heater that was being used in conjunction with an extension cord,” said Vito Maggiolo, a spokesman for D.C. Fire and EMS.

Maggiolo warned that heaters should never be plugged in with extension cords or power strips.

“Heaters and other high-energy appliances must always be plugged directly into a wall outlet,” he said. “If an extension cord is being used, it can overheat and catch fire.”

People who use portable heaters should also keep them at least three feet away from anything flammable and should never leave them unattended, Maggiolo added.

Fire crews endured howling winds and brutally cold temperatures as they battled the early-morning fire. They rescued one person from inside the home while two others escaped on their own.

All three residents were taken to a hospital with injuries, but they are expected to be OK.

“It took us about 15 minutes to extinguish the fire,” Maggiolo said. “We were dealing with the intense cold and frigid conditions, which pose a host of problems, but they were quickly overcome.”

Heating equipment is a leading cause of major house fires across the country, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

From 2012-2016, local fire departments responded to more than 52,000 fires involving heating equipment each year.

“These fires resulted in annual losses of 490 civilian deaths, 1,400 civilian injuries and $1 billion in direct property damage,” said the NFPA. “The leading factor contributing to ignition for home heating fire deaths was heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress or bedding.”

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