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Portable Heating Safety


According to a recent study performed by The National Fire Protection Association, Heating equipment is a leading cause of fires in US homes. Municipal fire departments in the US responded to an estimated annual average of 44,210 home structure fires caused by heating equipment in 2016–2020. These fires resulted in an estimated 480 civilian deaths; 1,370 civilian injuries; and more than one billion dollars in direct property damage each year.


Key Findings

• Heating equipment is a leading cause of fires in US homes.

• Home fires involving heating equipment follow a clear seasonal pattern and are most common during the cold weather months.

• Municipal fire departments in the US responded to an estimated annual average of 44,210 home structure fires caused by heating equipment in 2016–2020.

• Heating equipment fires resulted in an estimated 480 civilian deaths; 1,370 civilian injuries; and one billion dollars in direct property damage each year from 2016 to 2020.

• Heating equipment caused one in six of the home structure fires (13 percent) that took place in 2016–2020.

• These fires also accounted for almost one-fifth of the home fire fatalities (18 percent), one in eight injuries (12 percent), and 14 percent of the direct property damage resulting from home fires in 2016–2020.

• Space heaters were most often responsible for home heating equipment fires, accounting for one-third of the fires, as well as most of the deaths and injuries in home fires caused by heating equipment.

• Home fires caused by heating equipment were less likely to occur in the overnight hours from midnight to 6 a.m. (13 percent), but these fires accounted for more than two in five fatalities (43 percent), as well as disproportionate shares of injuries (22 percent) and direct property damage (20 percent).



Heating equipment caused one in six home structure fires (13 percent) in 2016–2020, while also accounting for almost one-fifth of the home fire fatalities (18 percent), one in eight injuries (12 percent), and 14 percent of the direct property damage resulting from home fires, as shown in Figure 1.


Types of Heating Equipment Involved in Home Fires

Space heaters were the type of heating equipment responsible for the largest shares of losses in home heating equipment fires, accounting for one-third of the fires, but nearly nine out of ten deaths and four out of five of the injuries in home fires caused by heating equipment. Three in ten of the heating equipment fires were small (confined) fires that resulted in minimal damage. While the larger (non-confined) fires involving fireplaces or chimneys were involved in fewer than one in ten fires caused by heating equipment (7 percent), they caused just over onefifth of the direct property damage (22 percent). Other leading types of heating equipment involved in home heating equipment fires included central heat systems, water heaters, and fuel burners or boilers.


Safety with Heating Equipment

NFPA has identified a number of home safety practices that can help to prevent fires caused by heating equipment. These include the following: • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment. • Maintain a three-foot “kid-free zone” around home fires and space heaters. • Never use your oven to heat your home. • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters, and central heating equipment according to local codes and manufacturer’s instructions. • Have heating equipment and chimneys inspected and cleaned every year by a qualified professional. • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving a room or going to bed. • Always use the appropriate type of fuel, as specified by the manufacturer, for fuel-burning space heaters. • Ensure that the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop embers from flying into the room. Make sure that ashes are cool before placing them in a bin for removal.

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