Fires and Explosions

Fireplace and Space Heater Fire Hazards

Home heating equipment is one of the most common causes of residential structure fires, second only to cooking fires.

Portable Space Heaters. Portable heaters, including space heaters, are usually the top cause of deaths in home heating equipment fires. Portable heater fires are responsible for about 100 of the estimated 240 deaths each year associated with home heating equipment. 

Space Heater - Portable Heater Safety
  • Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep the heater at least three feet from bedding, drapes, furniture and other flammable materials. Keep children and pets away from space heaters. 
  • To prevent the risk of fire, NEVER leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or place a space heater close to any sleeping person. Turn the space heater off if you leave the area. 
  • Use a space heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by a nationally-recognized testing laboratory. These heaters will have the most up-to-date safety features; older space heaters may not meet the newer safety standards. An unvented gas space heater that meets current safety standards will shut off if oxygen levels fall too low.
Space heater brands include De'Longhi, Vornado, Honeywell, Holmes and Lasko.

It’s getting cooler which means that many people will be using portable space heaters. While they may keep you and your family warm, they can also be dangerous.

The U.S. Fire Association’s Winter Residential Building Fires report shows that each winter there are more than 108,400 residential building fires. Those fires cause hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries and over a billion dollars in property loss. Space heaters cause 23% of residential fires.

When buying a space heater, there are several things you should look for:
  • An overheat sensor that shuts the heater off before it poses a fire risk.
  • An electric heater, not one powered by kerosene or other fuels.
  • A space heater that has a built-in thermostat.
  • An automatic shut-off that cuts power if the space heater overheats, topples over, or if something comes into direct contact with the heating element.
  • Check to be sure that the heater you purchase has not been recalled because of safety issues. Check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website.
Here are some safety tips when using your space heater:
  • Move all furniture and combustible items at least 3 feet away from the heater.
  • Only use space heaters for a limited time, and always turn it off at night.
  • Do not place electric heaters in bathrooms.
  • Never use a heater to dry clothes or other combustibles.
  • The space heater must be plugged directly into an outlet. Do not use an extension cord.
  • Heaters with damaged cords should never be used.
  • Always turn off heater when you leave the room, and unplug it when you leave the house.
  • If you plan to store a space heater after use, make sure it has cooled down first.
  • Keep young children away from heaters.