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Heater, extension cord blamed for Pierce County fatal house fires

TACOMA, Wash. – Three people have died in house fires in just the past week across Western Washington.

A woman in Federal Way died last week, and a man in Spanaway and another man in Tacoma died this week when fires broke out in their homes.

Firefighters believe the cold weather could have played a part.

It may sound like a broken record but firefighters say the message is important and could save lives. No matter how you stay warm in these cold temperatures, firefighters say there are steps you can take to keep your family safe.

Firefighters responded to Spanish Hills Apartments in Tacoma early Tuesday morning to put out a reported fire.

But sadly the 39-year-old renter, Lonnie Malone, died. Neighbors told Q13 News he used to work for the apartment complex.

Firefighters say radiant heat from his baseboard heater ignited materials and started the fire.

First responders pulled another man from a fire in his Spanaway mobile home only hours later, but 66-year-old Orville Stancil died later at the hospital.

Investigators believe a space heater hooked up to a faulty extension cord could be to blame.

And last week 69-year-old Carol Halder died inside her Federal Way apartment after it caught fire but officials don’t yet know the cause.

“During the winter season, while folks are paying attention to their heating, they also need to pay attention to safety and injury prevention aspect to home heating,” said Tacoma Fire Department’s Joe Meinecke.

Firefighters say anything that could catch fire should be stored at least 3-feet away from heaters.

Plus, all portable heaters should be UL-certified and never be left running while you’re asleep.

“For best practices, use portable heaters directly into your outlets into your wall and one at a time only,” said Meinecke. “Don’t put more one in there and don’t use extension cords or power strips, directly into the wall is best.”

Firefighters say now is also a good time to double check the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Plus, if the equipment is ten-years-old now is the time to replace them.