While space heaters are the first thing many reach for during cold winter months, they come with hazards.

Over 65,000 homes were damaged in 2017 due to space heaters alone, costing many their lives and millions in property damage.

The McPherson Fire Department warns those who use space heaters to take precautions before plugging them in.

"There are several different hazards that we worry about with space heaters. One is that we worry about the electrical component of a space heater. We can get space heaters that can overload the wiring that they're plugged into, so we need to make sure whatever we're utilizing has the correct amperage for whatever its plugged into," said Deputy Chief T.J. Wyssmann of the McPherson Fire Department.

Wyssmann explained extension cords are not capable of handling the voltage load a space heater puts out, which can cause electrical fires.

"We end up having electrical fires based on over loading circuits," he added.

Wyssman also recommended to check safety features installed on space heaters.

"Heating up objects around them are dangerous. Older space heaters had something called a fall-over protection, so if they got tipped over, they would shut off. What we learned from structure fires in America is that the fall-over portion of safety portion of those space heaters was not sufficing. People were getting it too close to objects," he said. "If someone threw an article of clothing against it and it didn't tip over, it didn't shut off."

Wyssmann noted that when looking to buy a space heater, look for newer versions that have the letters UL on them.

"Underwriter laboratories means it’s tested and it’s really important use it as intended because that’s how UL tested it. If a space heater is intended to be in a garage, it’s not wise to utilize it inside of a house," he explained.

Wyssmann explained that UL heaters have a heat sensor on them, so if they fall over or get too hot, they shut themselves off.

Wyssmann gave some important tips for using space heaters in your home, and in the office.

— Place space heaters away from objects that are combustable. The safest place to do so is in the middle of the room so they are not around coffee tables, couches or end tables.

— Be sure to check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, as they will activate if something goes wrong.

— Turn space heaters off when leaving.

— Keep paper and trash cans away from them so they don't cause a fire.

For more information, contact the McPherson Fire Department at 620-245-2505.

Contact Brooke Haas by email at bhaas@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her on Twitter @ MacSentinel.