TORRANCE (CBSLA) – A burn victim who survived a deadly fire when she was a child is spreading awareness on how to properly use space heaters.

Shannon Collins hugged the nurses and one of the doctors who took care of her for nearly two months while she was being treated at Torrance Memorial Burn Center after surviving a deadly apartment fire at the age of nine.

“It’s been so long. You were on a breathing machine, now you’re a lady now. Congratulations,” said Dr. Vimal Murthy.

On Dec. 26, 2006, a fire broke out, killing her grandfather and injuring her grandmother and sister.

“We had a space heater that was close to the couch, and unfortunately it wasn’t turned off or moved. So it did cause the couch to caught fire, after that, the Christmas tree caught fire,” Collins said. “I was about 35 percent burned… it’s mainly on my arms, my neck and lower back.”

Collins is using the experience to warn others of possible dangers of using space heaters.

“We are here, we are trying to make a difference,” she said.

Collins teamed up with the Torrance Fire Department and the Torrance Memorial Burn Center team to spread awareness.

“Sometimes, we get a chance to see patients who survived their injuries and give back to the community. And it means so much for us,” Dr. Murthy said.

Fire officials said a space heater should never be your main source of heat.

“Every space heater comes with a set of instructions and that is your primary source to keep your family said,” said Tad Friedman with the Torrance Fire Department.

Other safety tips include always keeping heaters away from flammable items, never leaving them unattended or using them while you’re sleeping, and never using them with an extension cord.

Collins said the fire changed her life, but in good ways as well. She said she hopes no one else has to go through what she has endured.

“Please be careful and be aware … you never know what could happen. And always treasure every moment you can,” Collins said.


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