As temperatures begin to dip across the country, millions of people are pulling space heaters out of storage to help warm their homes. But an Oregon fire department has issued a safety warning about a life-threatening risk involving the popular devices.
"You should never plug a heater into a power strip," cautioned Umatilla County Fire District #1 on its Facebook page, along with a photo of a severely melted power strip as an example.
“These units are not designed to handle the high current flow needed for a space heater and can overheat or even catch fire due to the added energy flow."
The post has been shared more than 22,000 times since it went up Sunday night, eliciting hundreds of comments, including numerous horror stories involving space heaters.
Most people do not realize that power strips are not the same thing as surge protectors, said Rachel Rothman, chief technologist at the Good Housekeeping Institute.
"You should definitely not use an extension cord or power strip, which could easily overheat," she told GoodHousekeeping.com. "And you really shouldn't plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater for safety reasons."
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warns against using extension cords or power strips with space heaters to reduce fire risks. The agency says that portable electric heaters cause 1,100 fires per year, resulting in about 50 deaths, dozens of injuries and millions of dollars in property loss.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, 32 percent of home-heating fires involve space heaters, resulting in 79 percent of home-heating fire deaths in the United States.