Wichita fire officials say be cautious when using portable heaters

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A warning from fire officials, stay warm, safely.

“This extension strip cord isn’t long enough so what usually residents do is they connect to another extension cord to be able to get to their device,” says Lieutenant Jose Ocadiz, Wichita Fire Department.

Talk about an immediate fire safety hazard. Just Monday morning, a family lost their home after doing just that.

“Portable heating devices need to be plugged directly into your outlets,” says Ocadiz.

And other alternative heating sources can be a threat to if not used correctly.

“The occupant did say he was out of power at the time. He was filling a generator full of gasoline.”

Wednesday evening crews were called to a fire on South Everett Street.

The family living at the home told KSN that they didn’t have power. Instead, they used a gas generator. But fire crews say it may have been too close to the home, and the wrong mixture of hazards became explosive.

“He filled it up he thought he spilled some gasoline, then after a few minutes it apparently caught fire,” says Battalion Chief John Turner.

During these very cold days, experts warn not to turn to unsafe heating methods to stay warm, because there is help out there.

“Looking at where they spend their money, here and there, which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it can be,” says Deann Smith, Executive Director of Open Door Ministries.

Vision quest, a program offered by United Methodist Open Door in Wichita, says in-home case managers will help people who have fallen on hard times to pay bills and get back on their feet.

“We are going to help, help pay bills, and share that,” says Smith.

Smith says it’s more about short-term and long-term structure, helping families to live within their means to establish stability, even if it means having to move them out of their homes.

“It also may be that we help them transition to more affordable housing,” says Smith.

At the first of every month the Salvation Army offers a bill relief program to help pay bills. It is on a first come first serve basis.