Investigators say a fire that gutted a garage in Eau Claire Monday night was caused by one of two heat sources: a heat lamp or a space heater. Whether it is a wiring issue will be examined by an insurance company.
Regardless, the fire killed 10 Old English bulldog puppies that were left unattended near both the heater and the lamp.
Experts say keeping a space heater or heating lamp on and unattended is every bit as dangerous as doing the same with a lit candle. A typical year will bring about more than 10,000 house fires and nearly 200-deaths associated with portable or fixed space heaters.
For pets, the danger is even greater. A dog or cat doesn't know not to sniff a space heater, or even rub up against it.
"They're free to roam, and they could easily knock the appliance over or knock something into the appliance," said fire inspector Janet Harter.
Experts say having your pets inside an insulated room or garage will keep them warm for a short period of time, even if there isn't a heater going.
"I would say just a blanket, even possibly a heating pad but turn it off when you're not at home," said Lauren Evans of the Eau Claire county humane association.
The same rule applies to any alternate heat source, even if you don't have pets.
Your safest bet is a heater that is u-l approved. Some even turn themselves off when knocked over. Plug it directly into the wall, as an extension cord would make it easier for someone to trip and knock it over.
"If you have a blanket or paper or anything combustible next to it, carpet, you're asking for trouble," Harter said.
the consumer product safety commission recommends keeping a space heater or heating lamp at least 3-feet away from any kind of flammable object like bedding, drapes, and furniture. You never want to leave it on after you go to sleep.