Caution Urged For Those Still Seeking Heat And Lights

Thursday, December 13th 2007, 4:31 pm
By: News On 6

As darkness fell Thursday night, people light candles to see, Officials say candles have been the cause of several house fires, including one that killed a man on Wednesday. The News On 6’s Emory Bryan reports that’s just one of the dangers of trying to come up with heat and light during a power outage. The fire department is warning people about carefully following safety precautions, especially with generators that are being put into use as soon as they’re brought home from the store.

The fortunate few have generators to supply them with what they need to get by.

“Well I just got it started, but the heat is going and I'll hook up some lamps and then try the TV,” said Tina Collins of Tulsa.

Tina Collins paid $500 for her model which is enough to power the basics. But, the gasoline engine is also a danger if it's used indoors or anywhere that carbon monoxide can accumulate.

"Well, I just kind of knew that already. It would be like running a car in the house or your garage. It's not safe," said Tina Collins.

The Tulsa Fire Department has responded to dozens of carbon monoxide poisonings, caused by improperly ventilated heaters and people using generators indoors.

"This is not something that can happen. This is something that is happening and people are perishing as a result of not following the proper safety procedures as they attempt to stay warm,” said Tulsa Fire Captain Larry Bowles.

When using a gas space heater inside, it's important to have proper ventilation, even opening a window if you have to get some air inside. With generators, the only safe place is outside."

Julie Donelson made sure the generator she is using was in the right place.

"Well, we have it outside under the deck so the fumes won't be a problem, but we were concerned about someone stealing it,” said Julie Donelson of Tulsa.

That's what leads some people to put them in places where they shouldn't, despite clear warnings they only be used outdoors. They can be used safely and can help during a power outage.

"Right now we have the heat and the refrigeration hooked up so everything wouldn't go bad in the refrigerator,” added Julie Donelson.

It is important to remember that carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless and can be produced by anything that burns including gas stovetops, space heaters, grills, and generators. That is why the fire department recommends everyone have a carbon monoxide detector in their home.

Watch the video: Staying Safe While Keeping Warm


So far this week, Tulsa firefighters have responded to more than 100 structural fires, including several which have resulted in fatalities. Tulsa Fire Captain Larry Bowles says citizens can help prevent fires, electrocutions, carbon monoxide poisoning and other problems by using caution with candles, space-heaters, fireplaces and heating appliances not designed for indoor use.

Captain Bowles offers the following recommendations.

Candles: Do not leave candles unattended in unoccupied rooms. Keep a minimum three-foot radius of space around and above candle flames to separate them from any combustible materials. Extinguish candles when you go to sleep or leave the room

Space heaters: If you have power and are using electrical space heaters, make sure they are kept a safe distance from any combustible materials. Do not sleep too close to space heaters where blankets or other bedding or clothing might be pushed too close to the heat source.

Portable gas or liquid-fuel heaters: Unvented, petroleum-fueled heating appliances should not be used indoors. Besides posing the same fire-starting dangers as candles and space heaters, their combustion process creates carbon monoxide (CO), a lethal poisonous gas. Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, sleepiness, nausea and vomiting, progressing to disorientation, coma, convulsions and death.

Charcoal burners or grills: As with petroleum-fueled heat sources, burning wood or charcoal indoors produces carbon monoxide and so should not be used indoors. Many such devices also contain vents that could allow live coals or hot ashes to spill onto carpets or combustibles.

Ovens & Ranges: Again, the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning is a danger, even if built-in cooking appliances have adequate space around them or are insulated from nearby combustibles. They should not be used for heating.

Fireplaces: Burning wood, or burning gas logs, also produces carbon monoxide. Much escapes up the chimney, but it can still pose a danger inside. Also, building fires that are too-large or too-hot can cause flue or chimney fires in walls or attics or roofs that may not be detectable from inside the house until the fire is already spreading throughout the structure.

Generators: The use of petroleum-fueled electrical generators can help provide light and comfort, but they should be operated only outdoors. Their motors emit carbon monoxide which can cause deaths if they are operated in closed or poorly ventilated rooms or buildings. The use of generators can also pose hazards for people outside of buildings. Electrical current from generators can back-flow into electrical lines meant to bring power into the structure. An electrical line that was uncharged at one point in time can become re-charged, and thus dangerous, because of back-flow power from small generators.

Power Lines: Treat ALL power lines as if they were charged and dangerous. Do not attempt to move or handle power lines hanging low, lying on the ground or on or among the branches of downed trees. Leave handling of downed or sagging power lines to electrical linemen and electricians.