Firefighters warn of electrical fires during colder months

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Cedar Rapids firefighters say electrical fires are more common during the colder months.

Firefighters on scene of a house fire in Waterloo. It happened at 408 Courtland Street around 10 p.m. on 11/7/2019. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

"In the last 20 months, we have seen 195 fires that are caused by powered equipment,” said Cedar Rapids Fire Department Battalion Chief Jason Andrews.

Firefighters tell TV9 heating equipment is the leading cause of fires in homes across the country. With the recent cold snap, more people are turning on furnaces, fireplaces and space heaters.

November through March are the peak months for deaths related to electrical fires. Firefighters say 86% of them happen from portable heat sources, like space heaters.

Just two weeks ago, a house fire from a space heater sent a Waterloo woman to the hospital (pictured above). She had minor burns. According to the fire department, she told authorities a space heater caught some bedding and other items in her room on fire.

Firefighters say it's not safe to keep space heaters next to anything combustible. They recommend keeping items about three feet away and to turn heaters off whenever you leave the room.

Andrews also suggests not using electric blankets.

“You put an electric blanket on your bed and then you put more blankets over top of it, and that insulates that heat,” he said. “If there's one small break in the cord, one small break in the heating element, you just have those ignitable products right there by the electric blanket.”

With Christmas around the corner, firefighters want to remind people to avoid overloading extension cords with holiday lights displays.

Firefighters say if you smell some type of smoke or electric odor, leave and call 911 right away. Also, check with an HVAC specialist to make sure your electric and gas units are running properly.