Sunday's tragic New York City fire killed 17 people (mostly children), and serves as a reminder about safely using space heaters.

The fire on the second and third floor of a Bronx high rise has been called the second most deadly US home fire in nearly 40 years by the National Fire Protection Association. It started with a malfunctioning space heater in a bedroom, according to New York Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro.

Hampton Fire Chief Michael McMahon told Seacoast Current that doors left open by residents leaving the building helped the fire spread quickly.

"If you do have a fire and you're leaving, shut the doors on your way out. If the fire in that apartment had met a closed door, the outcome likely would have been quite different," McMahon said.

He also advised sleeping with bedroom doors closed.

"A fire in another part of the house will come right through an open door but a closed door greatly increases your chance of survival and safety," McMahon said.

Space heater
Space heater (Achudh Krishna on Unsplash)

Other Space Heater Advice

McMahon offered some other advice about using space heaters in homes, including using a newer device because it doesn't include open heating coils and open flame in kerosene heaters.

"It offers safety features that include tip over protection, a thermostat that shuts it off when it gets to a particular temperature and starts to overheat," McMahon said.

Children and pets also present a danger while using a space heater in the home.

"The possibility that of a dog or a child knocking something over or knocking something into it is real. It wouldn't be a shock for my dog to pull something off the couch and perhaps get that into the space heater in the room," McMahon said.

Other tips from the chief:

  • Keep it 3 feet away from potential combustible and flammable materials like curtains, bedding, and soft goods.
  • Don't use with a power strip. An overloaded power strip can catch fire.
  • Make sure it's a UL device

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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