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January 22, 2014

OUR VIEW: Freezing out winter fires

A Hammond house fire killed three children and critically injured their father the evening of Jan. 8 as he rescued their siblings, authorities told The Times of Munster.

The badly burned father was standing outside his two-story home with two children, 5 and 7, as firefighters arrived on scene.

A space heater was found to be the origin of the blaze.

Unusually cold air returns to Indiana, the Midwest and the Northeast once again this week, and the state fire marshal is asking Hoosiers to use caution when using wood stoves and space heaters to stave off the bitter chill.

“We have already seen the tragic consequences of the improper use of heating equipment in Indiana this year,” Fire Marshal Jim Greeson said. “Three children perished in a Hammond house fire as a result of a propane-fueled space heater being near combustible material.”

According to the American Red Cross, home fires are the biggest disaster threat Americans face. Improper use of alternate heaters increases that threat as people turn to other ways to heat their homes when the temperatures drop.

Many people use alternate sources of heat to cut down on heating bills. If your family is among that group, the Red Cross offers these tips:

• Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs at least 3 feet away from space heaters, stoves or fireplaces.

• Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.

• Keep children and pets away from space heaters.

The Red Cross responds to a fire somewhere in the country about once every 9 minutes. The organization responds to about 63,000 home fires every year.

The message is clear: Fires can be deadly.

THE ISSUE The dangers of space heaters OUR VIEW If you must use them, use them with a healthy dose of caution.

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