Two Bristol Township residents suffered significant burns and were airlifted to Temple Hospital after an electric space heater started a fire that caused significant damage to their home. Fire department officials arrived around 4:00 a.m. and stated that no smoke alarms were sounding when they arrived. Thankfully, several neighbors had woken the couple up by banging on their doors and windows, allowing them to escape the blaze.
Bristol Township Fire Marshal Kevin Dippolito stated that it was not clear whether the electric space heater was too close to something flammable, or if a defect/malfunction was responsible for the fire. Whatever the cause was, the fact remains that space heaters continue to pose fire hazards in homes across the United States, and these malfunctions leading to destructive and sometimes deadly fires are sadly all too common. The attorneys at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt can help you determine if your devastating space heater fire was caused by a faulty product, and if so, who should be held liable for damages.
Why Are Space Heaters Dangerous?
Over half of all home heating fire deaths start because the heating equipment is placed too close to something flammable, such as bedding or furniture. Other factors that can lead to fires are failing to clean the heater, or heaters that are left unattended. But between 15 to 30 percent of space heater fires are caused by mechanical or electrical malfunctions.
The safest heaters are ones that have fire-preventative features such as automatic shut-offs and long cords, and these models are usually certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL). But a UL certification is not legally required, and there is no current legal requirement that space heater manufacturers install critical safety features on all of their models.
How Many Fires Are Started by Space Heaters?
The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) states that heating equipment, such as space heaters, is the number one cause of fires in homes. Between 2012-2016, there were an average of 52,050 fires every year caused by heating equipment in the United States, resulting in 490 deaths and one billion dollars in property damage. Of these, approximately 1,200 fires were caused by portable electric space heaters specifically.
The winter months of December, January and February are the most dangerous months for home heating fires in the United States, and they usually occur sometime between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Early morning fires, like the one in Bristol township, are the most uncommon but are also the most deadly time for a space heater fire to occur. In fact, nearly half of all fatalities due to fires caused by heating equipment occur between midnight and 8:00 a.m.
Who Is Liable for a Fire Caused by a Space Heater?
Understanding who is liable for a fire caused by a space heater is a complicated question that will ultimately rely on the specific circumstances of your case. Liable parties may include:
- The manufacturer of the space heater
- The manufacturer of defective parts in your space heater
- The retailer who sold you your space heater
All space heaters should be placed a minimum of three feet away from anything that can burn according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and must be turned off when unattended. Consumers are also advised to always plug a space heater directly into a wall socket, and never to use a power strip or extension cord to plug in a space heater. But even when all these precautions are in place, catastrophic fires can still happen when using a space heater.
If you or your loved ones have experienced a fire caused by an electric space heater, you deserve answers and compensation for your losses. If the manufacturer or retailer is liable, you may have recourse to file a wrongful death or product liability lawsuit against them. The skilled attorneys at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt can answer your questions with a free consultation, and help you begin your recovery process. Fill out our online form here, or call us at 1-866-869-5318 to speak with someone today.