Fire chief gives safety tips after propane heater causes fatal Perry County fire

FRANKLINTOWN, Pa. (WHTM) – Heating your home is a must this time of year with frigid temperatures. Space heaters can quickly turn into a tragic situation. An elderly Perry County couple lost their lives after a heater started a fire in their home on Wednesday.

“The numbers are low, but they’re still too high. We shouldn’t have any incidents at all regarding space heaters,” said Chief Michael Whitzel, with the Franklintown and Community Fire Company in York County.

Fire investigators say a propane heater started the fire killing 84-year-old Ronald Miller, Sr. and 82-year-old Alice Miller in their Liverpool home.

“The heater should have a thermometer,” Whitzel said. “You want to make sure you can regulate the heat. That’s an important part too. You don’t want to overheat the room. Every day is a fire prevention day.”

Whitzel has more time to prevent another tragedy.

“Make sure it has an automatic shut off on it, so if it does get tipped over, it shuts off for you,” Whitzel said. “Make sure you’re plugging them into an outlet and not an extension cord if it’s electric.”

Space heaters should be turned off and unplugged when you leave the room.

“Make sure it’s UL tested,” Whitzel said, “Also, keep it three feet away from combustibles.”

“Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. Also, obviously keep it away from anything that is flammable. You’re talking curtains, blankets, and watch with small children. I have small kids, and that is something that you need to make sure you watch,” said Firefighter Robert Pomeroy, with Franklintown and Community Fire Company

Some other tips include keeping space heaters out of the way of traffic, never blocking an exit, and put the heater on a solid, flat surface.

The Pennsylvania Fire Commissioner reports 124 people in the state died from fires in 2017, and more than half were over the age of 55.


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