The Fire Department is urging all of Philadelphia to stay safe after a fire in Kensington claimed the lives of two men last week.
The two men who died in a first-floor fire fell victim to a space heater plugged into an illegal electrical connection.
“This is not uncommon, for a space heater to cause a fire in the winter months,” said Philadelphia Fire Department Executive Chief Richard Davison. “We do know that in the winter, that’s when the space heaters come out.”
On Monday, Nov. 26, a fire broke out at 9:51 a.m. in the first-floor living room area of a brick home at 3462 Joyce St., according to the fire department.
The fire was found to be caused by an illegal electrical hook-up, Chief Davison said.
“The electricity they were receiving was illegal. I’m not sure if it was faulty, but that was the general cause of the fire,” Davison said.
The fire was under control by 10:16 a.m., but two men died as a result. There were no smoke detectors in the home.
As cold weather sets in across the River Wards, the Fire Department is urging residents to exercise safety and caution with any use of space heaters and other potential fire hazards.
“Once you start implementing or using space heaters in your home, it becomes a hazard,” Davison said.
Space heaters are extremely high-power devices. If electrical wires in your home are frayed or aged, running power to a space heater may be enough to cause a fire.
Also, if a space heater is plugged in with too many other devices, a home’s fuse box can become overloaded.
However, Chief Davison said, space heaters can be used with an extension cord, only as long as the extension cord is of the same thickness — gauge — as that of the space heater’s power cord, or bigger.
“You don’t want to overload extension cords. You can use extension cords as long as you use the proper gauge and use it properly,” Davison said.
The Philadelphia Fire Department also offers free smoke detectors. To get a free smoke detector, call 311. The fire department will arrange to have smoke detectors installed in your home free of charge.
The Fire Department has provided a several safety guidelines for residents.
“They should ensure that they have working smoke alarms in every floor and every room,” the chief said. “Practice a home escape plan.”
The Fire Department also has created a fire safety app for mobile devices, which can be downloaded at www.freedomfromfire.com/fsapp.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, follow these steps to operate a space heater safely:
•Use a space heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and has been certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters have the most up-to-date safety features. Older space heaters may not meet newer safety standards. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for proper use.
•Place the heater on a level, hard nonflammable surface such as a ceramic tile floor.
•Keep the heater at least three feet away from bedding, drapes, furniture and other flammable materials.
•Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
•Turn the heater off if you leave the area.
•Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep.
•Don’t place a space heater close to any sleeping person.
•Never use gasoline in a kerosene space heater, as even small amounts of gasoline mixed with kerosene can increase the risk of fire.
•Don’t use portable propane space heaters indoors or in any confined space unless they are specifically designed for indoor use.
For more information, visit freedomfromfire.org, or call 311.
Reporter Sam Newhouse can be reached at 215-354-3124 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.