Cooler Weather Brings Increased Risk of Fire from Home Heating Equipment

By: Jimmy Williams
| Published 12/11/2020


THE WOODLANDS, TX - As temperatures fall again over the next few days, more and more residents will be firing up their home’s heating appliances and turning to alternative heat sources such as space heaters and wood burning fireplaces to keep warm.

Heating is a major cause of home fires in the United States, second only to cooking fires.

December, January, and February are the peak months for home heating fires, mostly due to seasonal heating and cooking fires. While cooking is the number one cause of fires year round, home heating fires can be especially deadly, particularly in homes not equipped with working smoke alarms. Home heating fires often occur at the worst possible time, breaking out in the middle of the night while our families are asleep. The number one safety recommendation is to first and foremost have working smoke detectors throughout the home, especially in all sleeping areas. Having working smoke alarms dramatically increases your family’s chances of surviving a fire.

Just this week, Firefighters from The Woodlands Fire Department responded to a chimney fire in the village of Grogan’s Mill. The home was severely damaged by the late night fire but fortunately there were no injuries. Each winter, Montgomery County Firefighters see a spike in home fires, often accompanied by an increase in injuries and deaths.

According to NFPA’s latest  U.S. Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment  report, which was released today, heating equipment is the second-leading cause of U.S. home fires and the third-leading cause of home fire deaths. More than half (53 percent) of all home heating fire deaths resulted from fires that began when heating equipment was too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding.

Between 2011 and 2015, portable and stationary space heaters accounted for more than two of every five (43 percent) U.S. home heating fires and five out of six (85 percent) home heating fire deaths.

Preventing Home Heating Fires

A leading factor contributing to home heating fire deaths was heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding. Many heating fires can be prevented by following basic safety tips when dealing with any heating equipment:

• Keep or maintain a 3 foot clearance between all heating equipment and anything that can burn.
• Inspect and maintain heating equipment regularly for safety.
• Be sure to have fixed space heaters installed by a qualified technician, according to manufacturer’s instructions or applicable codes.  Or, make sure a qualified technician checks to see the unit has been properly installed.
• When buying a new, portable space heater, make sure it has the label showing it is listed by a recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
• Space heaters should be turned off every time you leave the room and before going to bed.
• Choose space heaters that turn off automatically if they tip over.
• Never use a space heater to dry clothing.
• Do not use your oven to heat your home.
• Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home.  For the best protection, interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home.  When one sounds, they all sound.
• Test smoke alarms monthly.
• If your home is equipped with gas appliances, install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms to avoid risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

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