Dangers of Alternative Heating Sources

November 25, 2008 7:46:39 PM PST
People are getting creative in heating and powering their homes in these tough economic times but that can be deadly. Fresno Fire Chief Randy Bruegman said, "This is the first time I've seen the actual generator brought inside the house." Bruegman is seeing more cases of people not being able to afford their power bills and using gas burners, ovens, and even charcoal grills to heat and power their houses. Last month two Fresno homes caught fire when candles were substituted for electricity.The fire chief said, ""It's extremely dangerous and we recommend not using any of them." Chief Bruegman recommends checking and cleaning your gas appliances every year including your gas fireplace. Make sure the flue is intact and sealed.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen in just minutes. Tuesday, 3 Fresno firefighters got poisoned when they went in a Southwest Fresno house to rescue the homeowner. They were in there less than 3 minutes. The 43 year old woman had been powering her home with a generator and died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Jeff Smith is with PG & E. "It's always tragic when someone loses their life in circumstances like that." The power company has 2 programs to help those who can't afford their utility bill, and can even set up a payment plan for them. The programs are called CARE and REACH. Smith said, "And that's one of the reasons we want folks to get in touch with us because we want to find something that will work for you."

Then there's the United Way's 2-1-1 call center. Beatriz Alejandre is one of the center's operators. "Right now we're hearing a lot of necessity."

She's seen the number of calls for financial help with electric bills go up and expects it to rise as the temperatures drop. "A lot of people that are being let go from their jobs are trying to find out where they can get assistance to pay their bills."

2-1-1 connects callers in Fresno County with agencies like the Economic Employment Commission and the Salvation Army for help. But now even the help needs a helping hand. Alejandre said, "Some agencies are actually running out of funds to assist the people." Even so, there are a number of charities that can provide one-time help or pay a percentage of power bills for those who are eligible.

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