The National Weather Service reports that serious snowfall, high winds and bitter cold temperatures are expected Thursday into Friday of this week. Snowfall is expected Wednesday into Thursday with up to several inches of snowfall predicted. In addition, bitter cold temperatures and strong winds will make for dangerous holiday travel conditions later this week. The wind, falling temperatures and the snow could make for hazardous driving conditions for the Christmas holiday this coming weekend.

As a result of Old Man Winter making his presence felt, the Missouri State Fire Marshal is urging residents to practice extra caution heating their home as the bitter cold begins to grip the state.

“The name of them are space heaters,” according to State Fire Marshal Tim Bean. “They’re not designed to heat a whole large room. They’re for more smaller rooms and just kind of take the chill out. With those, if you’re using them in the bedroom, make sure that you have an adequate space around them. Three foot is what we use as a circumference around that. We recommend not using extension cords around space heaters because they do pull a lot of amperage and so plugging them straight into the wall is the best way to use one of those.”

According to the National Fire Protections Association, space heaters are the leading cause of home fires from December through February. They account for about one-third of home heating fires and 80% of heating fire deaths.

“I’ll go with a fireplace or if you use wood stoves, it’d be good to make sure your chimney is clean and has been checked,” Bean adds. “Make sure it’s operationally good and not cracked, sometimes, over time, they’ll crack and create issues. Making sure your chimney is clean with your gas type heaters in your homes, making sure they’ve been serviced and maintained and cleaned and are burning this fuel as they’re designed to. Also, there’s an exhaust piece pipe on those gas burning furnaces, making sure they’re good and, over time, sometimes those rust due to condensation. Checking those and making sure they’re in good shape because, with gas-type heaters, furnaces, carbon monoxide is a byproduct of burning the propane or natural gas. We don’t want any of that coming back into your home or being created from a faulty furnace because, as we know, carbon monoxide is kind of a silent deadly gas. If there’s a malfunctioning heater, that can create those issues with those.”

According to the Division of Fire Safety, when temperatures in the Show-Me State plummeted in February 2015, space heaters and supplemental heating sources were presumed in seven deaths and six injuries in less than a week. Bean says that space heaters and not having properly working smoke alarms in homes were two key factors which led to heating fires.

“You know, this time of year, statistics do reflect, there’s a lot of fire fatalities created by space heaters and we here at the Fire Safety Division, our investigators work a lot of fires here in our state,” according to Bean. “This time of year, the colder December, January, February, that is pretty common. It’s not practicing safety while using it.”

Bean says that space heaters are designed to be used to supplement your primary sources of heat as they don’t sufficiently warm from the primary heating source.