Outside, the winds blew and temperature was dropping. Inside, a flannel shirt and newspaper draped over a kerosene heater ignited quickly. Had the blaze not been intentional, it could have been a tragedy.
The exercise was a warning from New Haven officials about alternative heating sources.
The New Haven Fire Marshal and the Livable City Initiative are joining forces in the new public awareness campaign, at the request of the New Haven Board of Alderman.
Members are concerned that tough economic times will cause people to cut back on conventional heating methods and turn to kerosene heaters, propane heaters, stoves and other unsafe options.
The Livable City Initiative encourages tenants with units that are cooler than 65 degrees to report the problem. City policy requires complaints to be addressed immediately.
If the problem stems from a mechanical malfunction, the city will order property owners to make repairs. If the problem is caused by a lack of fuel, the city will refer residents to agencies or programs offering financial assistance.
Kerosene heaters are illegal in New Haven and propane heaters cause a carbon monoxide risk, officials said.
As part of the campaign, the city encourages residents to make sure smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order.