Things got too heated at the Sunny Tanning Salon, in New Paltz, after a space heater scorched an upstairs apartment, according to the New Paltz Fire Department (NPFD).
On Sunday, Jan. 20, the NPFD responded to an emergency call from the property located at 94 N. Chestnut St. While no one was injured during the incident, the room where the flames occurred suffered extensive smoke and fire damage.
The property is a mixed-use building with the tanning salon on the first floor and apartments on the upper floor. According to NPFD Fire Chief Cory Wirthmann, the tenant left the space heater on in the room overnight when he left to plow in the torrential blizzard the night of Jan. 19. Allegedly the heater was placed too close to a nearby workout bench and eventually lead to its combustion. Due to intensity of the storm, the tenant was stuck plowing while his room smoldered in the snow.
In an adjacent room, the homeowner of the building woke up to blaring fire detectors and smoke and immediately called emergency services. Since the tenant’s door was locked, the owner quickly snagged a fire extinguisher, climbed inside through a window and managed to extinguish a majority of the flames.
“Smoke is an indicator of how big the fire is, so when we pulled up and saw that much smoke we assumed it was still on fire,” Wirthmann said. “When they actually made entry into the room there was still a small smoldering fire.”
Luckily the damage didn’t spread past the room where the blaze began, however the paint, sheetrock and other features of the room will have to be replaced. While the building is still habitable, the tenant is displaced until repairs can be made.
Wirthmann claims that the department deals with at least one space heater related fire annually. The National Fire Protection Agency released a report in 2018 that attributed 43 percent of U.S. home heating fires and 85 percent of associated deaths to space heaters. They concluded that a bulk of these heating fires occur between December and February, generally the coldest months of the year. Wirthmann offered a number of safety tips using space heaters in your home.
“You want to have a ‘clearance of combustibles’ around the space heater,” Wirthmann said. “Make sure there is at least 24-36 inches [of clear space] around the unit so you won’t set something on fire by heat transfer.”
Wirthmann also suggests only buying space heaters that are certified by Underwriters Laboratory. This company ensures that electrical products are tested and safe before sold to consumers. Additionally, they should only be plugged directly into walls since the amount of energy used could cause a power strip to catch fire.