Heating unit malfunctions, fire breaks out in Orange County home

Use caution when turning on heat for first time this season, firefighters say

ORLANDO, Fla. – Members of an Orange County family are happy to be alive after firefighters said their central heating unit somehow malfunctioned, causing their home to catch fire. 

An 80-year-old woman who was home alone managed to escape the fire. She told News 6 she's blessed and now plans to stay with family. 

"Jesus saved me," homeowner Emma Riverra said.

Firefighters said it's a big reminder for people to be careful during these cold temperatures when turning on their heat for the first time of the season. 

"When you turn it on for the first time, you’re going to smell that smell of dust burning off the coils. However, that should quickly dissipate," Orange County Fire spokesman Mike Jachles said. "If it doesn’t, and you see smoke or flames, you need to get out the house and call 911."

Fire investigators are still working to see how the family's centralized heater malfunctioned. They’re also reminding people not to use outdoor grills or stoves indoors to keep warm.

Investigators said the family did not have any working smoke detectors. 

Also, during this cold snap, many shelters across Central Florida aren't turning anyone away. News 6 found out many shelters, such as the Coalition for the Homeless, and the Salvation Army, for example,
have what's called "cold nights," and when temperatures drop below 40 degrees, people can stay overnight and get a warm meal for free.

“To help the Coalition offset costs, monetary donations are greatly appreciated and can be made online," the organization said. "Blankets and men’s jackets are also much-needed and can be dropped off from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Center for Women and Families.”

On Tuesday night, News 6 also spotted generous people lending a hand. Our crew ran into a couple passing out pajamas to help keep people warm.

"It’s good to give love, and that’s all we’re doing is showing love," Liza Morgan said.

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