With the onset of bitterly cold weather comes the time when people get their space heaters out of the closet or attic and fire them up to keep their homes and offices warm.

However, the misuse of these heaters can lead to destruction of property and valuables -- even others' property. The Paducah Fire Prevention Division and Kentucky State Fire Marshal's Office reminds people to check before they use these heaters.

"You should never leave them unattended," said Deputy Chief Greg Cherry of the Paducah Fire Prevention Division. "Also, make sure that you are using a heater that has been approved" by Underwriters Laboratories or a similar organization.

Cherry recommends residents check to see if their heaters have tipover devices, which shut the heater off if it tips over.

The location of the heater should also be noted. Cherry said this is the most common cause of heater fires.

"Don't get them too close to anything that can catch on fire," Cherry said. "These include curtains and furniture, like a couch or chair, that could ignite."

He added that getting heaters too close to flammable toys like stuffed animals should also be avoided.

Also be mindful of the electrical situation involving the heater, he said.

"Don't overload the circuit that you put the space heater on," Cherry said. "Let's say you have the heater in your living room. Don't have all of your appliances and your space heater plugged into the same circuit."

Cherry said residents should also check to be sure that their smoke detectors are in working order and that the batteries are fresh. With heater fires being more prevalent this time of year, he said it is important to be sure the warning devices are working well.

Those with questions about heater safety can call the Paducah Fire Prevention Division at 270-444-8522. Other fire safety tips can be found on the Kentucky Fire Marshal Office website at dhbc.ky.gov. Click on the "Fire Prevention Safety Tips" link on the right side of the page, then click on the "Heating Safety" link.

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