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Cold Weather Returns This Weekend; NFPA Urges Caution When Using Space Heaters


The cold weather is making a big return this weekend and temperatures are expected to be in the single digits. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is urging the general public to use additional caution when heating their home from the cold.

Half of all U.S. home heating equipment fires occur this time of year, at 46%. Home heating equipment is the second leading cause of house fires and home fire injuries, and third leading cause of home fire deaths.

“During the coldest months of the year, home heating equipment kicks into high gear, so making sure it is in good working order and used properly is critical to reducing the likelihood of fire,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy at NFPA. “By better understanding when and where home heating fires happen, people can take the steps to minimize associated risks and safely heat their homes.”

An average 44,210 home heating fires occurred each year between 2016 and 2020, according to a report by NFPA. The fires resulted in 480 deaths, over 1,300 injuries, and a billion dollars in direct property damage.

The National Fire Protection Association has provided tips and guidelines to safely heat your home during the cold winter months.

  • Heating equipment and chimneys should be cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet (one meter) away from all heating equipment, including furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves, and space heaters.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, as specified by the manufacturer, for fuel-burning space heaters.
  • Create a three-foot (one meter) “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Make sure space heaters are in good working order and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Fireplaces should have a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container, which should be placed outside at least 10 feet away from your home.
  • All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
  • If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company.
  • Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are located throughout the home; test them monthly to ensure that they’re working properly.

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