Gas water heaters can be a fire hazard - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Gas water heaters can be a fire hazard

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July 10, 2003

Valdosta - Firefighters struggled to extinguish the blazes from an early morning house fire on South John's Street Thursday.

"Our guys arrived on scene in just minutes, and we're able to prevent the fire from spreading from the garage to the house," said J.D. Rice, Fire Chief.

The fire started when fumes from a gasoline can were ignited by a nearby hot water heater. "The owner was out in the garage cleaning up some spilled gasoline," said Rice. "She got it all up, but she didn't realize that the fumes could reach the heater and cause a fire."

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, nearly 800 residential fires involve gas water heater ignition of flammable vapors. Chief Rice says the heaters aren't dangerous, it's what we place near them that causes harm. "Anything flammable, like paint or gas cans, can cause a fire" said Rice. "A child could come by and just lift the lid slightly and the vapors could travel across to the heater, starting a fire."

But following a few safety measures can keep your home from ending up like this one. "Gas and paint cans need to be kept outdoors, but just don't put them near the hot water heater," said Rice. "They need to be locked up, ideally in a metal box."

Luckily, the homeowner had gone back inside minutes before the explosion and was not injured. The garage was completely destroyed, but the rest of the house only received minor smoke damage.

posted at 3:30 by ashley.harper@walb.com