Rigby space heater fire sparks winter heating safety discussion

Jefferson County fire could have been prevented

RIGBY, Idaho - On Monday, a Jefferson County family learned a hard lesson about safely heating their home as winter creeps closer.

Investigators said no one was injured when the family's home caught fire in a subdivision southwest of Rigby early on Friday afternoon, but they did say the cause is apparent. 

The outside of the home looked more or less intact, because the blaze started in the basement.

The homeowner told investigators the family dog had gotten into some papers and pushed them against an electric space heater, sparking the fire. 

Thor, the dog, probably didn't mean any harm. But the homeowners told the station he knows he's in trouble. Thor received some pats on the head from firefighters as consolation on Monday. 

Jefferson Central Fire Chief Jim Dual said he has no reason to doubt the homeowner's story. 

"I'm pretty sure that's probably what happened," said Dual. 

Dual said heater safety is important as things get colder outside.

"They need to make sure that they're placed in a situation so that they're not close to something that can catch on fire or burn," he said. 

He said unexpected things like pets can create a fire danger where one didn't previously exist. That's why a watchful eye is the best preventative measure. 

"Don't leave them unattended," said Dual. "If you leave your home, you need to shut that heater off."

Dual said most space heaters made less than 15 years ago have a mechanism to automatically switch off if they tip over. 

He said if your heater is older than 15 years, it is probably time to replace it. 

Central Fire investigators on Friday said they kept the fire from spreading beyond the basement of the Rigby home, but there is still extensive smoke damage.

Fire officials said it was started by a dog knocking over a space heater, which a lot of people are using now that colder weather is upon us, and the fire could have been prevented if the owners had kept a more watchful eye on the heater.

We'll have more about what you can do to prevent similar fires tonight at 5 and 6 on Local News 8 and at 5:30 on KIDK Channel 3 Eyewitness News.

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