Heater accident ignites fire at Buddhist temple

By Mischa Aaron Arnosky, Times Chronicle, Jan 24, 2007

A dangerous heater is to blame for a fire in Glenside Tuesday.

Philadelphia, PA (USA) -- The fire at Won Buddhist Temple of Philadelphia, on Abington Avenue, started around 5:30 p.m. in the central worship area of the temple. According to Abington Fire Marshal Ken Clark the fire was caused by moving a kerosene heater.

"They were utilizing a kerosene heater in the worship area," Clark said, "and they moved one and some kerosene spilled from the tank into a drip pan."

Clark said the woman who lit the heater did not know that the fuel had dripped down the side. According to Clark, the woman who lit the heater suffered minor burns when the heater "flashed."

Firefighters mostly had to deal with smoke, as "young men" inside the temple noticed the flash from the heaters quickly, according to Clark, and doused the heater with handheld fire extinguishers in the temple. Exhaust fans were set up in front of the temple doors and all of the vertical windows were opened to alleviate the smoke.

As for kerosene heaters, Clark's advice - don't use them. Though popular in the past, he said there are too many risks.

"This is the first instance this year that there's been a problem with kerosene heaters [in Abington]," Clark said. "They're dangerous and I wouldn't recommend using them. Even if the heaters don't start a fire, we're still not sure if they put out safe levels of carbon monoxide, if poorly tuned. They're a lot of problems."