JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - As temperatures drop well below freezing this week, Jefferson City fire crews prepared for a seasonal fire problem.
"Space heater fires, we usually have four to five here right away, we're afraid," said Capt. Tim Young of JCFD. "They're a very common thing as soon as the weather turns cold."
Young demonstrated for ABC 17 News how space heater fires start and how quickly they spread.
Using a bed sheet and a standard, newer model space heater, a fire started on a fire training bed apparatus within about 25 minutes. Less than one minute later, the entire bed was engulfed.
"When it finally got hot enough to ignite, it started giving off a little bit of smoke and it didn't take long for those puffs of flame to show," he said. "That's typically how these things start."
Unlike other fire dangers, Young said space heaters catch people off guard because of how long it takes for a fire to start and because those fires are often coupled with carbon monoxide poisoning.
Anything flammable, like bedding or carpet, should be kept about three feet away from the space heater when it is on.
"The bedding becomes the fuel at that point and it will break down slowly," Young said. "It doesn't just immediately ignite, it takes a while to get that ignition temperature up."
JCFD had not responded to any heating related fires late Monday night, but expected to start getting calls for space heater and flue fires.
Flue fires are more common in the Capital City because many homeowners fail to have chimneys cleaned before the first fire of the season. Young said the creosote that builds up in the chimney from the winter before dries out over the summer and is ripe for ignition.
Young also cautioned against older model space heaters because of exposed heating coils. Newer models often come with protective cases on them and internal thermometers to regulate heat.