RICHMOND, Va. -- Freezing temperatures are dominating Central Virginia as the area is experiencing its first winter storm of the season.
The cold weather is prompting many to rely on alternative heating sources. However, if these heating sources aren't used properly, there can be dangerous and even fatal consequences.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating equipment is involved in one of every six reported home fires and one in every five home fire deaths.
Richmond Fire Department spokesperson Amy Vu said their men know this problem all too well as they responded to eight fatal fires that resulted in 12 fatalites in 2021.
"The majority of them did not have working smoke alarms. So it's really a tragedy to know it probably could have been prevented had they had some forward notice from an alarm," Vu said.
One of the fatal fires in 2021 claimed the life of a man living in a shed who was using a space heater.
"It's a piece of equipment that is radiating heat and it's a fire risk if unattended so if you are going to leave the room or go to bed, it's best to turn it off to be safe," Vu said.
Vu believes this winter weather blast provides an opportunity to remind people about home fire safety tips, like avoiding overloaded extension cords and power strips and keeping a three-foot safety zone around space heaters.
She also has advice for those who rely on a generator.
"It's best to have that outdoors. Keep them away from windows and doors. Don't run the generator inside your garage even if the door is open. All that is a fire risk. And you have to be really careful using that type of equipment," Vu said.
Carbon monoxide is also an invisible killer. The substance is a colorless gas that is created when fuels do not burn completely, so experts recommend getting a carbon monoxide detector in your home.
If you need a smoke alarm, the fire department will install it for free. You just have to call the city's smoke alarm request line at (804) 646-1526 to schedule an appointment.