LYNCHBURG, Va. – Seventeen people, including eight children, died of smoke inhalation in New York City, according to the medical examiner’s office Wednesday.
Authorities say a malfunctioning space heater sparked Sunday’s inferno in the 19-story building in the Bronx.
Jennifer Mayberry, a public education specialist with the Lynchburg Fire Department, says people must pay attention and protect themselves in those situations.
“Fire does not discriminate. It will hit anyone at any time, and the best thing we can do is try to prevent it the best we can,” said Mayberry.
That prevention includes having working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, do not use your stove or oven to heat your home, and clean chimneys and fireplaces annually.
Mayberry also suggests clearing at least three feet around space heaters and turning them off when you leave the room.
“People like to put [space heaters] right where they’re going to be sitting so they’re comfortable, but you’re taking the chance of that material catching on fire.”
10 News placed a thermal-imaging camera next to a space heater, and within seconds the temperature was about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mayberry says more people die from smoke inhalation than the fire itself.
“The smoke has a lot of poisonous gases in it, and it is very hot, and it can burn your lungs.”
Mayberry suggests crawling under the smoke on your hands and knees, covering your nose and mouth with a cloth to filter the smoke. You should also close doors to prevent fire and smoke from spreading.
Tips that may seem basic but could be the difference between life and death.
“It doesn’t matter what kind of home you’re in, you need to have a fire safety plan,” said Mayberry.