While only 32 percent of home heating fires involve space heaters, they cause 79 percent of home heating fire deaths, according to a report released in 2011 by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Heating equipment continues to be the second leading cause of home fires, behind cooking fires, and the second leading cause of home fire deaths, behind smoking.
The Salt Lake City Fire Department recommends caution when using portable heaters in your homes and businesses.
In 2011, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 53,600 reported U.S. home structure fires, with associated losses of 400 civilian deaths, 1,520 civilian injuries, and $893 million in direct property damage. These fires accounted for 14 percent of all reported home fires.
The leading factor contributing to space heater fires in general is heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress or bedding. This was the leading factor causing fatal home heating fires and accounted for more than half (53 percent) of home heating fire deaths.
When using a portable heater, follow these safety tips:
- Never operate a heater you suspect is damaged
- Before use, inspect the heater, cord, and plug for damage
- Never leave the heater operating while unattended, or while you are sleeping
- Keep combustible material such as beds, sofas, curtains, papers and clothes at least three feet from the front, sides and rear of the heater
- Be sure the heater plug fits tightly into the wall outlet (If not, do not use the outlet to power the heater)
- Never power the heater with an extension cord or power strip
- Ensure that the heater is placed on a stable, level surface, and located where it will not be knocked over
- Never run the heater’s cord under rugs or carpeting (This can damage the cord, causing it and nearby objects to burn)
- To prevent electrical shocks and electrocutions, always keep electric heaters away from water, and never touch an electric heater if you are wet)