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Space heaters: How to stay warm without burning down the house

The NFPA offers essential space heater safety recommendation for fire departments to share with their communities


Heating equipment is a leading cause of fires in U.S. homes. (Photo/Getty)


Heating equipment is a leading cause of fires in U.S. homes. (Photo/Getty)

When the cold weather arrives, so too does the portable heating equipment, pulled out of the garage or closet and fired up to keep us warm. And while portable heaters can help ward off the chilly nights, they also pose a serious fire danger.

Heating equipment is a leading cause of fires in U.S. homes. According to the NFPA, fire departments responded to approximately 52,000 fires involving heating equipment each year between 2012 and 2016 – 15% of all reported home fires during this time. Further, these fires resulted in annual losses of 490 civilian deaths and 1,400 civilian injuries.

So, how can we stay warm without creating a fire hazard?

Preventing space heater fires

Fire departments can play a key role in sharing space heater safety tips with their communities to help reduce these numbers, minimizing risks to firefighters and citizens alike.

The NFPA offers these tips for safe space heater use:

  • Purchase a heater with the seal of a qualified testing laboratory.
  • Keep the heater at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn, including people.
  • Choose a heater with a thermostat and overheat protection.
  • Place the heater on a solid, flat surface.
  • Make sure your heater has an auto shut-off to turn the heater off if it tips over.
  • Keep space heaters out of the way of foot traffic
  • Never block an exit.
  • Keep children away from the space heater.
  • Plug the heater directly into the wall outlet.
  • Never use an extension cord.
  • Space heaters should be turned off and unplugged when you leave the room or go to bed.

My space heater is on fire

If your space heater catches fire, call 911 immediately. If possible, close the door to the room where the space heater is located before exiting the building.

Firefighters, make space heater safety a part of your life safety messaging, and share these tips with your community.

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