BISBEE — In order to reduce the risk of fire here at the holidays and beyond, the Bisbee Fire Department is offering local residents with dangerous, inefficient electric heaters who may not have the money to replace them the opportunity to turn them in and get replacements.
Firefighter/EMT Robert Cline, president of union Local 2146, said he had exchanged six electric heaters so far. The ones turned in were definitely a potential risk.
“In addition to being more efficient, new heaters feature a tip–over kill switch. If they are accidentally knocked over, a sensor shuts off the heater, greatly reducing the risk of fire,” Cline said.
A radiator-type heater was turned in and he saw it was leaking oil, presenting a fire risk.
Last December, a Bisbee man was killed in a house fire caused by an electric heater, said Capt. Brandon Davey.
“Seems like every year we have one or two fires caused by electric heaters,” he said. “And, we get fires in chimneys because people don’t clean them out.”
According to the National Fire Prevention Association, 86% of home fires are caused by portable heaters, with nearly half of them occuring in the cold months of December, January and February.
The FPA reports that heating equipment is the second-leading cause of U.S. home fires and the third-leading cause of home fire deaths. More than half of all home heating fire deaths resulted from fires that began when heating equipment was too close to items that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding.
The exchange program was funded by Step Up Bisbee/Naco and Old Bisbee Firewise.
Step Up’s Grady Meadows said the idea came from retired Dr. Paul Enright, who does the electrical work for the nonprofit.
“He researched them and found the best, most efficient heaters for the program,” said Meadows.
In order to see how popular the exchange program would be, Step Up purchased only 10. Meadows was surprised six had already been exchanged.
Grady said, “We can buy more.”
Lindsay Koehler of OBF said, “Though we’re wildfire-oriented, we want to prevent any fire in Bisbee, particularly Old Bisbee. We’re like the anti-fire public relations team. We want to educate the people whenever we can.”
Step Up Bisbee/Naco is a nonprofit dedicated to helping low income families and individuals who need help maintaining their homes. Before COVID–19, the group of 100 or so volunteers spent a day working on homes, repairing roofs, cleaning yards and other tasks. This year’s fundraiser and event had to be canceled.
Step Up volunteers have partnered with the city of Bisbee on affordable housing and are nearly done renovating its the first home, which will be offered to a member of the police or fire departments.
The nonprofit Old Bisbee Firewise was formed by concerned residents of Old Bisbee, which holds one of the highest risks in the state for out-of-control wildland fires. With most of the homes constructed of wood 100 years ago and built literally on top of one another, the danger of a wildland fire causing catastrophic loss of homes led to the creation of the organization. The volunteers have been cleaning up around homes that adjoin the wildland interface.
Cline is the exchange program’s contact person and can be reached at Old Bisbee Fire Station #82, 520-432-6022, to schedule a heater exchange.