Keeping sufficiently warm during the winter months can prove challenging, particularly when frigid temperatures persist, as they have recently for much of the country. While portable space heaters can help generate heat, NFPA is reminding the public that they do present potential fire hazards and must be used with caution.
Between 2011 and 2015, portable and stationary space heaters accounted for more than two of every five (43 percent) U.S. home heating fires and five out of six (85 percent) home heating fire deaths.
To use portable space heaters safely, make sure they are placed a minimum of three feet away from anything that can burn (that includes people and pets). They should never be left unattended, and must be turned off when people leave the room or go to sleep.
According to NFPA’s latest U.S. Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment report, which was released today, heating equipment is the second-leading cause of U.S. home fires and the third-leading cause of home fire deaths. More than half (53 percent) of all home heating fire deaths resulted from fires that began when heating equipment was too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding.
Following are important home heating safety tips and recommendations for the colder months ahead:
- Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
- Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
- Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
- Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
- Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
- Install wood burning stoves following manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional do the installation. All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
- Install and maintain CO alarms to avoid the risk of CO poisoning. If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company.
- Never use your oven to heat your home.
You can also check out “Put a Freeze on Winter Fires,” our annual campaign with the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), which provides a wealth of information and resources to help reduce the risk of home fires during the heating season.