Courtesy of the U.S. Fire Administration

Note: Even though spring is here, cool weather days and even cooler evenings are still occurring in many parts of the country. With heating the second leading cause of home fires, it is critical to remind the public of heating dangers. Share this article with members of your community to help prevent heating fires.

Keeping you and your family warm when it is cold outside is a priority. Equally important is knowing how to safely heat your home. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), heating is the second leading cause of home fires, and they are often preventable.

Heaters come in many sizes and shapes, have different functions, and use different fuels, but all heaters need to be properly installed, operated, and maintained. It is important to follow the guidelines below for safe heating of your home.

General Heating

Have a three-foot “kid-free-zone” around open fires and space heaters. Supervise children whenever a wood or oil stove or a space heater is being used. Use a sturdy metal screen to prevent contact burns, which are more common than flame burns.

All heaters need space. Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment. Use heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.

Never use your oven or stove for heating. Ovens and stoves are not designed to heat your home.

Install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters, or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions. Have a qualified professional install the equipment.

Portable Electric Space Heaters

Turn heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.

Only purchase and use portable space heaters from a recognized testing laboratory with an automatic shut-off. If they tip over, they will shut off.

Place space heaters on solid, flat surfaces, and place them and their electrical cords away from high traffic areas and doorways. Plug space heaters directly into outlets and never into an extension cord or power strip. Do not plug anything else into the same outlet as the one you are using for your space heater. This could result in overheating.

Fuel Burning Space Heaters

Always use the proper fuel as specified by the manufacturer. When refueling, allow the appliance to cool first and then refuel outside.

When using the space heater, open a window to ensure proper ventilation.

Wood Burning Stoves

In wood stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets. Start the fire with newspaper, kindling, or fire starters. Never use a flammable liquid, such as lighter fluid, kerosene, or gasoline, to start a fire. They produce invisible vapors that can easily catch fire.

Allow ashes to cool before disposing of them. Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from the home and any other nearby buildings. Never empty the ash directly into a trash can. Douse and saturate the ashes with water.


Always use a metal or heat-tempered glass screen on a fireplace and keep it in place. Burn only dry, seasoned wood.

Central Heating

Furnaces need to be inspected and serviced at least once a year by a qualified professional. Keep the furnace area clean and uncluttered.

To learn more about safe heating, visit the U.S. Fire Administration’s web site at http://www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/home_fire_prev/heating/