Camp Butler highlights space heater hazards
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Base office workers considering combatting this winter’s cold with a space heater should know that the devices, which present a fire danger, are strictly controlled, said Mark S. Sileikis, Camp Butler assistant fire chief for prevention and education.
“They’re a fire hazard,” Sileikis said. “They draw too much power and can overload an electrical circuit.”
Sileikis said a space heater already has been blamed for one small fire in a government building this winter.
Rules for using space heaters in government buildings are spelled out in Marine Corps Base Bulletin 11380, he said.
“No electric space heaters will be used in MCB Camp Butler facilities without prior written approval of the facilities maintenance officer,” states the order. “All requests for electrical space heaters will be by letter to the FMO, documenting the exact location and the specific requirement for FMO evaluation, electrical safety check and approval/disapproval.”
Fuel-burning heaters are strictly prohibited, the bulletin states.
Once a request is submitted, utility engineers inspect the work area to see if current electrical circuits can handle the load, said Master Sgt. Michael Bacote, Camp Foster’s Facilities and Maintenance operations chief.
A decision usually is made within two weeks, he said. If the request is approved but circuitry can’t handle the load, Bacote said, wiring will be upgraded. Sections must resubmit space-heater requests each year, he said.
Also, Sileikis said, only authorized heaters may be operated in government buildings. “Most people just want to buy them and plug them in,” he said. “You have to go to base supply and check one out.”
Sileikis said that at every safety inspection, the fire department will cite any unapproved space heater. He said the approval letter must be kept on file and several rules must be followed, such as keeping 36 inches of clearance around heaters and not using them under desks.
“If you have an illegal heater and it causes a fire, you can be held liable for destruction of government property,” Sileikis said. “You’ll have to pay for damages and for violating the order.”