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Heating Fires

October 7 – With winter just around the corner, it is important in emphasize fire safety when it comes to heating your home.  According to the Nationa Fire Protection Association (NFPA), “Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fires during the months of December, January and February, and trails only cooking equipment in home fires year-round.”

According to the NFPA:

  • In 2005, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 62,200 reported U.S. home structure fires, with associated losses of 670 civilian deaths, 1,550 civilian injuries, and $909 million in direct property damage.
  • In 2005 heating equipment fires accounted for 16% of all reported home fires (second behind cooking) and 22% of home fire deaths.
  • Space heaters, whether portable or stationary, accounted for one-third (32%) of the home heating fires and three-fourths (73%) of home heating fire deaths in 2005.
  • Excluding small confined fires, heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding, is by far the leading factor contributing to home heating fires (27%) and home heating fire deaths (53%).
  • Chimneys and chimney connectors accounted for the largest share (36%) of home heating fire incidents in 2005. Failure to clean accounted for two-thirds (64%) of the confined chimney and chimney connector fires in 2002-2005.
  • The peak months for home heating fires are December, January and February, accounting for nearly half (44%) of all home heating fires. 

Source: NFPA’s “ Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment ” report by John R. Hall, Jr., November 2007.

Wood Stoves

According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA) wood stoves cause over 4,000 residential fires each year.  The USFA recommends you carefully check the manufacturer’s installation and maintenance instructions.  In addition, check for any cracks and inspect the legs, hinges and door seals for smooth joints and seams.  When burning fuel, use only seasoned wood, not green wood, artificial logs, or trash.  Finally, have your chimney and pipes professionally inspected and cleaned annually and check monthly for any damage or obstructions.

Electric Space Heaters

If you are considering purchasing an electric space heater for your home, purchase only those heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).  Also check to make sure the heater has a thermostat control mechanism and will switch off automatically if the heater is tipped or knocked over.  Remember; space heaters need space; keep combustible materials at least 3 feet away from any space heater in your home.   And, of course, always unplug any space heater when it is not in use.

Kerosene Heaters

The USFA recommends you purchase only those kerosene heaters which have been evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory.  Also, check with your local fire department to see if kerosene heaters are legal for use in your community.  Check to make sure the fuel you are using is Crystal Clear K-1 Kerosene.  No other fuel, including gasoline, should be used.  Also, do not overfill the heater and be sure to use it in a well-ventilated room to avoid the buildup of potentially harmful fumes.


The USFA recommends you have your chimney professionally cleaned and inspected each year.  Always check to make sure the damper is open before lighting a fire and never burn trash, paper, or green wood.  Be sure to use a screen heavy enough to stop any rolling logs and is big enough to cover the entire opening of the fireplace to catch any sparks.  When leaving the house or going to bed, be sure the fire is completely extinguished.  Also store cooled ashes in a tightly sealed metal container outside the home.


Home Heating Fire Safety Brochure