Columbia, SC (WLTX) - According to the South Carolina Fire Marshall's Office, in 2017, 101 people died in 86 fires throughout the state and we haven't gotten off to a good start this year. So far there have been 11 fire deaths.

The deaths occurred in Spartanburg, Anderson, Williamsburg, Lee, Richland, Berkeley and McCormick counties.For more than half of the fires, investigators believe each started because of heating.

Public Fire Education Officer for the Columbia Fire Department Bengie Leverett said heating is the leading cause of fires during the winter season.

The lower than normal outside temperatures may have contributed to the statistic.

"With space heaters the general rule of thumb is three feet. You want to keep a three foot dome of free [space] from anything combustible that may burn," Leverett said. "With chimneys, if you do use it, once a year have them inspected, cleaned [and] never use pine in a fireplace because the kerosene can build up in it and cause an actual fire in your chimney space."

Of the 11 people who died, seven of them were over the age of 50.

"They are more prone to get hurt and injured in a fire," Leverett said. "A lot of people use space heaters because they're cheap, but you've got to be careful that you are using it to the manufacturers specifications."

You can find more information on the Columbia Fire Department website.