A Glasgow firefighter rescued a woman Monday who was trapped inside her home during one of three heater-related fires that have occurred in the area in the days since temperatures plunged into single digits late Sunday.
When the Glasgow Fire Department arrived at 98 Dawn St. just before 5 p.m. Monday evening, GFD Lt. Daniel Sexton heard banging on a window at the front of the house. He forced the front door open and found a sofa blocking the doorway, according to the release. Once inside, he found a woman in the front living room and removed her. She was taken to a neighbor’s house to get her out of the cold, and fire department personnel began treatment for smoke inhalation. She was later transported to T.J. Samson Community Hospital by Barren-Metcalfe County Emergency Medical Services for further treatment.
Firefighters found flames coming from an electric wall heater and from materials placed in front of it, according to a GFD news release. The fire occurred just inside a doorway off the carport and was quickly extinguished, according to the release, and firefighters set up positive-pressure ventilation to remove smoke from the house.
The fire was contained in the room where the heater was, although some smoke and heat damage occurred in other areas of the house. Firefighters also discovered that the phone line had burned, which caused dispatch to lose contact with the resident during her call for help.
“The resident said she saw the fire and was trying to get out when she made the call to 911 and then she became trapped in the living room,” according to the release. “She stated that she found the window and was trying to break it out when firefighters entered and brought her out.”
The heater had been left on accidentally, according to the release. Assistant Chief Bryan Marr later said that the resident thought she had turned it off.
Firefighters were on the scene for about an hour. They were assisted at the scene by EMS, the Glasgow Police Department and the Glasgow Electric Plant Board. The house is owned by Edna Garrett.
A similar incident occurred Tuesday at Darla’s Second Impressions Consignment Shop at 606 N. Dixie Highway in Cave City. Cave City VFD arrived just after 9:30 a.m. to find a fire at the wall heater in a storage room.
“The guys quickly went in and extinguished it, and damage was limited pretty much to the room it originated in,” said Cave City Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Adam Maulden, who added that the heater itself, part of the wall above it and a few items surrounding the heater were damaged.
A smoke detector alerted a staff member to the fire, he said. Firefighters were on the scene for about an hour and no injuries were reported.
The owner thought she had turned off the heater, but it actually was just turned down so low that it hadn’t kicked on until outside temperatures became extremely cold, said. The heater might have been on for several hours before the area heated up to the point a fire started, he said.
It’s easy to think this particular type of heater is turned off when it’s not, Maulden said.
“There’s a fine line in there between off and just really, really, really low,” he said.
Maulden encouraged anyone who uses wall heaters to double-check them to make sure they are completely off when they are not intended to be in use.
GFD Chief Tony Atwood said such heaters should be checked on a regular basis to ensure the switch is completely turned to the off position. If the heaters are on a separate breaker circuit, he suggested turning off that breaker switch as an extra precaution.
In another incident Tuesday, Glasgow homeowner Frank Rowland said he was trying to thaw frozen water pipes at 504 Milton Ave. by funneling warm air through a stove pipe from a kerosene-powered heater outside the house into the crawlspace when material between the stone facade and interior wall ignited.
GFD responded just after 1 p.m. to the house, which is rented by Joe Reid.
Firefighters found a fire in the crawlspace at the rear of the house, which firefighters accessed through an opening in the wall in the basement in order to extinguish the blaze. At the same time, firefighters found that the fire had spread into a wall in a first-floor bathroom, above where the fire started in the crawlspace. They had to break into the wall behind a toilet and shower to extinguish the fire.
The fire was caused when the torpedo heater that was being used to thaw water lines caught the floor joist on fire in the crawlspace, according to the release.
No injuries were reported, and firefighters were on the scene for a little less than two hours. The fire department was assisted at the scene by GPD, EMS and EPB.
Atwood said later that standalone electric heaters have become prevalent, and some of the units get extremely hot. Fire prevention experts recommend keeping at least 3 feet of clear space around standalone heaters.
Atwood recommended that people with elderly relatives or neighbors – or anyone who might need assistance – should go through those residents’ homes, check heater settings and make sure items are far enough away from them.
When purchasing portable or other standalone heaters, Atwood said to be sure they are “UL listed,” meaning they have met specifications of Underwriters Laboratory. Among the features to look for in a heater is tip protection, which means the unit will shut itself off if it is knocked over, he said.
Also, plug heaters directly into a wall receptacle and avoid using extension cords, multiple-plug adapters and power strips because those have a tendency to lead to overheating, Atwood said.
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