The Dangers of Space Heaters

Space heaters are linked to more than 1,000 fires each year, most occurring in January.
3:00 | 01/15/14

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Transcript for The Dangers of Space Heaters
And next, right here tonight, did you know that january is the biggest month for house fires? And space heaters are blamed for more than 1,000 fires every year. So, abs byron pitts decided to investigate and showed us what can happen and how to avoid it. Reporter: We see it every winter. Homes destroyed. Lives lost. It's often the same culprit. We're leaning towards the space heater on the second floor. Reporter: Electric space heaters are involved in 1,200 fires every year, an estimated 70 people killed, causing $53 million in property loss. It's about 800 right now. Reporter: Wow. Who knew it got that hot? And that's part of the problem. People don't realize how much heat a space heater puts out. With the help of the jersey city, new jersey, fire department, we placed a flammable material, a towel, on top of a space heater. Let's see how long that takes. In 30 seconds, there's smoke. Firefighters told us, a small room could fill up with toxic fumes quickly. A minute later, embers. Flakes of fire that could spread elsewhere. Most often, when a flammable material is placed too close to a space heater, this is what can happen. So, rule number one, keep the proper distance. Minimum three feet. Rule number two, no extension cords. Some of the extension cords, aren't equipped to handle that much amperage. And they get hot. Reporter: This thermal imaging camera shows the problem. See that white? That's heat, right where the cords are connected. At 350 degrees, the average extension cord would melt, eventually leading to a fire. Placed under a carpet or near something flammable? That's trouble. And rule number three, make sure your space heater has a heat sensor and automatic shutoff. Look for this label on the box. If a pet or one of the children tips over the heating unit, it will automatically shut off. Reporter: This small electric box, when used properly, provides warmth and comfort. If not, the consequences can be disastrous. Byron pitts, abc news, jersey city, new jersey. And one more time, be careful of extension cords hidden under rugs or under couches. And space heaters need space around them.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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