St. Louis firefighters warn about space heaters after deadly NYC fire

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ST. LOUIS — Firefighters in the St. Louis area say the latest tragic fire in a New York high-rise apartment building hits close to home.   

A space heater is to blame for a fire that spread quickly after safety doors failed to close in a building built before water sprinklers were required.  At least 17 people died in the fire, including eight children.

“The problem with these building codes is they are they are the bare minimum,” said St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson.  

He also believes the dangerous use of space heaters is too common.  

“Every year we see fire deaths and severe injuries from secondary heating sources like space heaters and stoves,” said Jenkerson.  

Capt. Ed Bowers is with Metro-North Fire Protection District. He said his heart goes out to the victims’ families.  

“Once I learned exactly what happened, I thought about things that we can do here to help with prevention,” said Bowers. 

He encourages anyone determined to use a space heater to follow all safety precautions and avoid using standard extension cords.  Bowers said some space heaters will automatically shut off if they are tipped over. 

A hot space heater that tips over can quickly start a fire.   

“Let’s say it’s on your carpet or anything that can ignite; it will definitely start a fire,” said Bowers.

The New York tragedy was also fueled by malfunctioning safety doors that failed to close.  Bowers said open doors allow deadly smoke to move quickly through a structure quickly.  It’s a reminder that closing a door can minimize the risk of danger.  

First responders say it’s always a good idea to practice an escape plan in the event of a fire and check smoke alarms to make sure they’re working. 

St. Louis residents unable to purchase a smoke alarm for their home can contact the St. Louis Fire Department at 314-533-3406.  The department will install them for free.  

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