(CBS DETROIT)– As temperatures continue to drop this winter some may use alternative ways of heating their homes, like a space heater, but Firefighters in the city say if they’re not used properly they could cause a deadly fire.

Tragedy struck the Bronx, New York Sunday, as an apartment fire claimed the lives of 17 people, mostly children.

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“That’s our worst thing about our job that’s the worst day in our career we can’t imagine seeing that many people at one time perish,” said Veteran Detroit Firefighter Chief James Harris.

Harris says a devastating fire of this magnitude is heartbreaking to him and fellow firefighters here in Detroit. But hearing a malfunctioning space heater may be to blame, he wants to take this time to give some lifesaving safety tips.

“First of all you have to keep them at least 4 feet away from any furniture and clothing, you have children in the home keeping them away from their toys. They can get hot extremely fast and they’re extremely flammable,” said Harris

Harris also says never sleep with one on and never leave a space heater un attendant.

“Take it a step further and unplug that space heater just to be safe,” Harris said.

He says to always have working smoke detectors in the home and a fire escape plan, especially if you’re in a building with multiple levels.

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“You get low and go, you get out of that home, two ways out a door and a window. If you’re in an apartment building you always go to that stairway, you get in those stairs, you close the door behind you and you go,” Harris said.

Chief Harris says once you’re out call 911 and do not go back for anything.

The city of Detroit gives out free smoke alarms to city residents.

1301 Third St. Detroit

Tuesday-Friday 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

2 smoke alarms per home for any city of Detroit resident

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April Morton