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After water infiltrated gas mains around the U Street corridor on Jan. 23, cutting off heat to approximately 350 houses and businesses, frostbitten residents calling the Washington Gas help line got word of relief: If they dropped by the Engine Co. 4 on Sherman Avenue NW, they could claim one of 300 electrical space heaters donated by the D.C. Energy Office. Despite the distribution point, though, D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services says it does not condone or endorse the use of such heaters. Spokesperson Alan Etter says the department officially recommends that chilly residents pass up the freebies and visit the District-run warming center, which has been housed in various public buildings in the neighborhood. Failing that, he says, they should monitor the appliances and never leave them unattended. “In a typical situation, we would consider space heaters to be very dangerous,” Etter says. “That’s always our attitude.” —Sarah Godfrey