Prevent home heating fires with these tips from the pros


two pairso f stockinged feet before a fireplace

As the temperature drops, home fire risk rises. It just makes sense. While cooking fires are the leading cause of residential fires, heating-related fires come in second place and peak in the month of January. The U.S. Fire Administration recently issued two statistical reports that talk about home heating fires. In their Study of Heating Fires in Residential Buildings (2013-2015), they report that:

  • Approximately 45,900 annual heating fires in U.S. residential buildings were reported to fire departments each year.
  • Annually, heating fires resulted in 200+ deaths, 700+ injuries, and more than half a billion dollars in property loss.
  • Residential heating fires peak in the early evening from 5 to 9 p.m., accounting for 29% of heating-related home fires.
  • Confined fires (fires confined to chimneys, flues or fuel burners) accounted for 75% percent of residential building heating fires.
  • Combustible materials that were too close to the heat source accounted for 29% of non-confined fires.

While only 4% of heating fires in residential buildings involved portable heaters, they were  involved in 43% of fatal home heating fires, a statistic that should give some pause. In the USFA study on Portable Heater Fires in Residential Buildings (2013-2015), they report:

  • Annual estimated occurrence: 1,650 portable heater fires in residential
  • Portable heater fires caused an estimated 90 deaths, 175 injuries, and $84 million in property loss.
  • In 54% of the fires, the heat source was too close to combustible objects
  • About 37% of portable heater fires started in bedrooms.
  • In bedroom fires caused by portable heaters, the leading items ignited (23%) were bedding, such as blankets, sheets, and comforters.

Here’s a short USFA safety clip related to portable heaters.

Heating safety tips

Fire prevention experts say there are many practices you can take to reduce your risk of a heating-related fire in your home. Here are few safety tips we’ve compiled from the experts

Practice the 3-foot safety rule. Keep combustible materials away from the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.

Maintain a “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters. Again, 3 feet is the recommended distance.,

Inspect, clean and test. Have qualified heating professionals inspect and clean furnaces, chimneys and heating equipment every year. Replace batteries in your fire alarms in the spring and fall, and test smoke alarms at least once a month.

Turn off portable heaters when you go to bed or leave a room. Get more space heater safety tips from Travelers,

Never, never, never use ovens or portable grills to heat your home.

Fireplace safety:

  • Use a good quality screen to prevent sparks from jumping.
  • Dispose of ashes in a metal, non-flammable container when they are cold.
  • Dispose of ashes a safe distance away from your home – never beside the home or in the garage or cellar.
  • Learn more about how to dispose of ashes properly – and get a few tips on handy uses for the ash.

Related: see our recent post with money-saving home heating ideas:

Winterizing: Money saving ideas for heating your home

Winter fire safety: a few quick reminders


It’s peak season for home fires. While cooking is the leading cause of home fires year round, heating-related fires are a close second during the winter months – think space heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces. Use of inappropriate and unsafe materials during power outages can also lead to winter fires – relying on candles for lights, using a gas range for heat or a portable grill for cooking. The latter can also result in carbon monoxide poisoning, as can running a generator in or too close to the home.

Here are some short videos from FEMA that offer quick reminders about fire safety.

And with all this snow, don’t forget to dig out your nearest fire hydrant – a mere few minutes can make the difference when it comes to fire.

Candle with Care this holiday season


nfpa-candle-safetyFor many of us, candles are a big part of seasonal celebrations. They’re sometimes used for decorations and sometimes as a part of religious rites. The beautiful glow of candles can make any dinner or event seem festive, nostalgic, and special.

BUT — and there is a very big but — 12% of home candle fires occur in December, 1.5 times the monthly average of 8%, according to the National Fire Prevention Association. Here are some other facts from the NFPA report about candle fires:

  • The top three days for home candle fires were Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Christmas Eve.
  • More than half (56%) of the home candle fires occurred when some form of combustible material was too close to the candle. Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn.
  • Roughly one-third of home candle fires started in the bedroom. Falling asleep was a factor in 11% percent of the home candle fires and 37% of the associated deaths. Extinguish all candles before going to sleep.
  • Unattended equipment or abandoned materials or products were contributing factors in almost one of every five (18%) home candle fires. Never leave a burning candle unattended. Blow out candles when you leave a room.
  • Four percent were started by people (typically children) playing with the candle. Keep candles up high out of the reach of children. Never leave a child unattended in a room with a candle. A child should not sleep in a room with a lit candle.
  • Two percent started when the candle was bumped into or knocked over. Make sure candles are placed on a stable piece of furniture in sturdy holders that won’t tip over. Place candles away from spots where they could be knocked over by children or pets.
  • An improper container or storage was a factor in another 2% of the fires. Candles should fit in the holders securely and holders should be made from material that can’t burn.

View this short clip about candle safety and share with your loved ones.

Have a safe, happy Thanksgiving – and use caution on Black Friday & Cyber Monday



With any luck and proper planning, you won’t find Thanksgiving as perilous as the turkeys in our video clip do, but be aware that Thanksgving is the leading day for residential fires (PDF), averaging about 2,000 for the day, double or more the number that would occur on an ordinary day.
See our tips for preventing kitchen fires and our past post on the dangers of deep fried turkeys.
What should you do if a fire breaks out? According to the National Fire Protection Association:

  • Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire
  • Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you leave.
  • If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
  • Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
  • For an oven fire turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

We’d add a final step if damage occurs: File a report with your insurer or your local insurance agent.
Be safe and enjoy the holiday!

Have you watered your Christmas tree today?


If not, go do it now. Really! Here’s dramatic evidence of how flammable a dry Christmas tree can be as opposed to a tree that is watered regularly. This test was conducted by the National Fire Protection Association and Underwriters Laboratories.