The Washington State Fire Marshal is blaming portable electric space heaters for two recent home fires that left four people dead. It's important to stay warm, but it's also important to stay safe when using these heaters. Here are some safety tips to pass along straight from Fire Marshal Chuck Duffy.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office offers the following safety tips:
· Ensure that the heater is placed on a stable, level surface, and located where it will not be knocked over.
· Never power the heater with an extension cord or power strip.
· Keep combustible material such as beds, sofas, curtains, papers, and clothes at least 3 feet from the front, sides, and rear of the heater.
· Be sure the heater plug fits tightly into the wall outlet. If not, do not use the outlet to power the heater.
· Never operate a heater you suspect is damaged. Before use, inspect the heater, cord, and plug for damage. Follow all operation and maintenance instructions.
· Never leave the heater operating while unattended, or while you are sleeping.
· During use, check frequently to determine if the heater plug or cord, wall outlet, or faceplate is HOT!
‒ If the plug, outlet, or faceplate is hot, discontinue use of the heater, and have a qualified electrician check and/or replace the plug or faulty wall outlet(s).
‒ If the cord is hot, disconnect the heater, and have it inspected/repaired by an authorized repair person.
· Lastly, make sure you always have working smoke alarms installed in your home.

For more safety tips, visit the fire marshal's website.