COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Devastating fires are on the rise in Columbus, as people turn to alternative and sometimes faulty heating sources due to recent cold weather. On Wednesday, a charcoal grill was used inside a Columbus home to keep warm, leading to an extensive fire.
"You really have less than, on average experts agree, less than two minutes to get out of a house, and that's once a working smoke detector goes off," said Adelaide Kirk, Executive Director of the West-Central Georgia Red Cross.
With little time to escape, fires are claiming homes, property and lives across the country. Here in the Valley, officials have responded to at least four fires this week alone, all caused by space heaters.
"They're very very dangerous," said Kirk. Portable heating devices, or space heaters are what many turn to during cold months, especially for those without a central heating system. However, by not using them properly, you could be out in the cold for good.
"In the south we're not as able to deal with the cold temperatures as communities up in the North," said Columbus Fire Marshal Ricky Shores.
Experts remind everyone to place portable heaters on a flat surface away from anything flammable like furniture with padding, toys and curtains. They also remind everyone not to leave them on unattended like when you sleep or leave the house. Finally, if you have old equipment you might want to look into a newer system with added safety features.
"They need to remember they're taking not only their life, but the lives of others in their own hands, when they choose to use these methods to heat," said Shores.
With the recent increase in fires, local Red Cross officials say they are looking for volunteers and financial donations to help them assist victims.