Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fires during the months of December, January and February, and trails only cooking equipment in home fires year-round.

Facts & figures

  • Fireplaces or chimney’s rank first in the number of fires among types of heating equipment. Most of these were caused by creosote build-up.
  • Portable and fixed space heaters, including wood stoves, cause a disproportionate share of the home heating fire deaths. Space heaters were involved in 25% of the home heating fires but 74% of the deaths.
  • The leading cause of space heater fires was combustibles too close to the heater, except for wood stoves, where the leading cause was creosote build-up, and fixed electric space heaters, where the leading cause was equipment unattended.

Safety tips:

  • When buying a new space heater, make sure it carries the mark of an independent testing laboratory, and 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 that the unit has been properly installed.
  • Keep or maintain a 36-inch (1-meter) clearance between space heaters and anything that can burn.
  • Portable space heaters should be turned off every time you leave the room or go to bed.
  • Have any gas-fueled heating device installed with proper attention to ventilation. If unvented gas space heaters are used in bedrooms or bathrooms, make sure they are small and well-mounted. NFPA codes prohibit use of liquefied petroleum gas heaters with self-contained fuel supplies.
  • Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, chimney connectors and all other solid-fueled heating equipment inspected annually by a professional, and cleaned as often as inspections suggest. Use only wood that is properly seasoned to reduce creosote build-up.
  • When burning wood in fireplaces or wood stoves, it is important to use properly seasoned wood. The U.S. Department of Energy cautions that green wood has more moisture and is likely to smolder, leading to more creosote build-up. They recommend a moisture content of 20-25%, noting that wood that is too well-seasoned may also result in creosote build-up.
  • Make sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room. Allow fireplace and woodstove ashes to cool before disposing in a metal container.

Test smoke alarms monthly; install a carbon monoxide alarm  in a central location outside each sleeping area.

Make sure they are small and well-mounted. NFPA codes prohibit use of liquefied petroleum gas heaters with self-contained fuel supplies.

  • Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, chimney connectors and all other solid-fueled heating equipment inspected annually by a professional, and cleaned as often as inspections suggest. Use only wood that is properly seasoned to reduce creosote build-up.
  • When burning wood in fireplaces or wood stoves, it is important to use properly seasoned wood. The U.S. Department of Energy cautions that green wood has more moisture and is likely to smolder, leading to more creosote build-up. They recommend a moisture content of 20-25%, noting that wood that is too well-seasoned may also result in creosote build-up.
  • Make sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room. Allow fireplace and woodstove ashes to cool before disposing in a metal container.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly; install a carbon monoxide alarm  in a central location outside each sleeping area.