During the winter heaters help us escape from the cold, home heating fires are the second leading cause of house fires behind only kitchen fires. Space heaters rank as the most deadly of home heating devices and while only 32 percent of home heating fires involve space heaters, they are involved in 79 percent of home heating fire deaths, according to the new report Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment released today by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
The leading factor contributing to space heater fires in general was heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding. Failure to properly clean and maintain space heaters can pose a fire risk as well.
NFPA offers the following safety tips.
- Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
- Never leave children and pets unattended around afireplace, fire pit, or other space heater is being used. Use a sturdy, metal screen to prevent contact burns, which are even more common than flame burns.
- All heaters need space. Keep things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
- Use heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
- Never use your oven for heating.
- Make sure all fuel-burning vented equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. CO is created when fuels burn incompletely. CO poisoning can cause illness and even death. Make sure the venting for exhaust is kept clear and unobstructed. This includes removal of snow and ice around the outlet to the outside.
- Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms.
- Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional.
Portable electric space heaters
- Turn heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.
- Use and purchase portable space heaters with an automatic shut off so if they’re tipped over they will shut off.
- Place space heater on solid, flat surface.
- Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord.
- Replace if cords, plugs or any equipment seems to be worn, frayed or broken.
Fuel burning space heaters
- Always use the proper fuel as specified by the manufacturer.
- Allow the appliance to cool and refuel outside or in a well-ventilated area when refueling.
- When in use, open a window to ensure proper ventilation.
- If the pilot light of your gas heater goes out, allow 5 minutes or more for the gas to go away before trying again, do not allow gas to accumulate, and light the match before you turn on the gas to the pilot to avoid risk of flashback.
- If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not attempt to light the appliance. Turn off all the controls and open doors and window. Call a gas service person.
Wood burning stoves
- Chimneys and vents need to be cleaned and inspected at least once a year.
- Wood stoves should bear the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
- In wood stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets.
- Start the fire with newspaper or kindling, never with a flammable liquid, such as lighter fluid, kerosene or gasoline.
- Keep the doors of your wood stove closed unless loading or stoking the live fire.
- Allow ashes to cool before disposing. Dispose of ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from the home and any other nearby buildings. Douse and saturate with water.