Family loses home to space heater fire before Christmas

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(KAKE) -

It’s a Christmas when they lost everything. Though it happened in December 2010, Stacey Monroe remembers it vividly.

“Something just woke me up. It was like too hot in the house,” Stacey said. “And I stood up, walked around the corner, and there was flames shooting out from the outlet in the hallway. I couldn't even see anything from the bedroom.”

Stacey and her two kids, ages 6 months and 4 years old, had fallen asleep in their Concordia home. When she woke, Stacey yelled for her little boy to run out of the house, as she grabbed the infant girl in a baby swing. Everyone made it out OK.

Later, Stacey and her husband Michael learned the fire was caused by a space heater. They were renting a house and say the heat wasn’t good. The young couple used three heaters to help keep things warm for their family of six. The heater that caused the fire was plugged in a surge protector – something experts now advise against. The heaters overwhelmed the electrical system, which Michael said was not up to code; they didn’t know it then, but now are mindful of what they should look out for in their future homes.

Michael snapped photos of the damage. He said only a handful of things could be salvaged. In one, you see a charred wall with outlines from where photos once hung.

“That's how hot that house fire was. It literally melted pictures off the wall,” he said. “You can see on these four, where they were.”

As he looked at the dozens of pictures he captured, Michael said he’s grateful for everything since. People brought Christmas gifts and toys to help the kids feel more comfortable. The American Red Cross helped them find a place to stay, and so did Stacey’s employer: a local hotel.

They wish they knew who all gave to them then, as it turned out to be one of the most memorable Christmases for the family. Michael was stunned, though, when he realized one item that survived the fire.

“Speakers were melted, stereo was melted, and the only thing that didn't get touched was these two crosses here,” he said pointing them out in a photo. “I had to take a picture of that. The picture behind it was totally gone.”

On its website, the U.S. Department of Energy states that more than 25,000 residential fires every year are associated with the use of space heaters, resulting in more than 300 deaths. 

When buying a space heater, be sure to:

  • Only purchase newer models and be sure they follow safety guidelines
  • Select a proper size for the room you have
  • Keep the heater at a distance – at least three feet away from anything in the room
  • Always plug it directly into the wall
  • Unplug when not in use
  • Turn off when you’re not in the room

For additional tips, click here.

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