(WFSB) – The Fire Commissioner of New York says a malfunctioning space heater caused the fatal fire in the Bronx over the weekend.  

Cromwell’s acting Fire Marshal, Harold Holmes, says it is important that space heaters meet “USL” standards and have an automatic tip switch.

“If a heater were to tip over, a flip switch would automatically shut it off,” says Holmes.

The air coming out of space heaters can reach up to 120 degrees. If a heater accidentally tips over, the automatic switch cuts the fan, and the heat stops.

According to officials, space heaters cause 25,000 fires a year.

“It’s not anything I would think of honestly instinctually. It seems like a safe thing to do because it’s electric, and I didn’t think about it,” says Glastonbury resident Michelle Kolios.

Kolios has a space heater and plans to make sure it has the proper safety features.

Space heaters should be at least three feet away from anything else and be sure to use a good extension cord as space heaters draw a lot of energy.

The apartment door and at least one stairwell door were left open as resident fled, allowing smoke to spread throughout the building.

Many were not able to escape because of the volume of smoke in the building, officials say.

“That smoke really hit me. By the time I got to the exit and I had the mask on, I couldn’t even see. I thought I went blind,” says a resident of the Bronx apartment building.

Copyright 2021 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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