Space heater sparks blaze

By Brandon Evans | Published Saturday, December 14, 2013

{{{*}}}A fire late Tuesday afternoon caused serious damage to a home located just west of Bridgeport.

The fire was caused by a space heater plugged into an extension cord.

FIRE AND ICE – Firefighters climb onto an ice-covered roof to extinguish a fire that had spread to an attic. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“There was a failure on the cord, and it caught the window drapes on fire,” said Wise County Fire Marshall Chuck Beard.

The fire spread into the attic of the house, located on County Road 3212, just south of Cuba Road.

Michael Holmes lives there with his 72-year-old father.

“I was trying to put the fire out, but the ceiling became as hot as a heater, and I threw up after breathing in the smoke,” Holmes said. “I had to get out. I hope I can save my clothes. I hope there is a place for us to sleep tonight. This is messed up. It’s only a couple weeks before Christmas.”

Firefighters from Bridgeport, Decatur and Paradise were called to the scene. Smoke billowed from the roof as the fire spread from a bedroom up to the attic. Firefighters climbed a ladder to the ice-covered roof and used a chainsaw to carve a hole so they could attack the flames in the attic.

Their efforts saved the house, but not before smoke damaged the interior of the wooden home, which was built in the 1930s.

The Red Cross provided the family a room in a Bridgeport hotel for the night. Holmes and his father were able to return to their home but it suffered substantial fire, smoke and electrical damage.

Beard said this was the third fire started by a space heater in a home in Wise County in the last couple of weeks.

“People just need to pay attention,” he said. “Overloading a circuit or placing combustible stuff near the heater causes these fires.”

Many of the of the newer space heaters have an automatic shutoff that can prevent such accidents. It’s recommended that space heaters never be plugged into an extension cord, only directly into a wall outlet.

Thirty-two percent of all home heating fires are caused by space heaters, and a staggering 79 percent of home heating fire deaths are caused by space heaters, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

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