Staying safe while staying warm - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Staying safe while staying warm

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Near freezing temperatures are possible in the city this weekend for the first time this season, but not everyone has a central heating system. Instead, they rely on other heat sources that can be dangerous if not used properly. One Chattanooga family learned this first-hand.

"In a second it could be gone. You know what I mean. And that's what happened," says Samuel Goines, Jr.

It was Valentine's night, 2015.  The Chattanooga house that Goines and his wife, Martha, called home for 11 years caught on fire. Samuel was on the porch when it started.

"I saw some smoke coming from under the car port," recalls Goines. "I ran back in the house and my bedroom was just gone."

Other areas of the home sustained smoke and water damage. The Goines had to eventually tear the house down and move down the street into another home owned by their family.

Something placed too close to a space heater started the fire. They know they were fortunate to survive.

"Had we been in the bed, we wouldn't be here today. No," says Martha.

Heating appliances are the second-leading cause of house fires in the scenic city, leading to many fatalities.

"We see people place furniture, boxes, other things that are too close to those heaters, and over a period of time, a few hours, a fire breaks out," says Chattanooga Fire Department spokesman Bruce Garner.

He also says people think it can't happen to them, but he sees it year in and year out.

"You may be asleep, the couch catches on fire. Then you have a potential tragedy on your hands at that point," adds Garner.

He says if you do the following things, the chances of needing a fire truck are much lower:

  • Keep anything that could catch fire at least three feet away from a space heater or wall heater.
  • Keep portable heaters at least three feet from walls.
  • Don't place clothes or materials on space heaters in order to dry them out.

Goines learned the hard way and won't let it happen again.

"Anything that's close by, if you're not watching it, things can happen," Goines adds.

Garner also suggests, before it's too late, to have your chimneys, wood-burning stoves, and gas-burning cabinet heaters professionally inspected and cleaned.

Also, when moving into a new apartment, make sure the smoke detectors work properly. When moving into a new home that's furnished, check for wall heaters and move furniture away from them.

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