Power strips and space heaters just don't mix

CINCINNATI -- Assistant Cincinnati fire chief Sherman Smith said it's not unusual for firefighters to spend the winter responding to scenes like the one above: The smoking black aftermath of an ill-fated union between a power strip and a space heater.

"Typically, we'll see a spike of fires in the wintertime because obviously people are using these supplemental heaters," he said. "It's cold, so many people look for supplemental heating where they wouldn't have heat."

But space heaters almost always exceed the amperage of the power strips to which they are attached, leading to 32 percent of all home heating fires and 79 percent of home heating fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association

The United States Customer Product Safety Commission also reported that electric heaters caused around 1,100 fires and about 50 deaths per year.

That's why Smith said the Cincinnati Fire Department gives a blanket piece of advice in the winter: Never, ever plug a space heater into a power strip.

"Even an outlet on the wall, it's not typically recommended by the manufacturer to plug anything else into that outlet," he said.

When using a space heater at home, Smith said the safest course of action is to make sure the heater is plugged into the wall by itself, with no other devices sharing its outlet and nothing flammable nearby.

Currently, the Cincinnati Fire Department is installing smoke detectors for families in the Cincinnati area for free. You can reach them by calling their Division of Fire Prevention at (513) 357-7582.

Print this article Back to Top