Heating equipment, such as space heaters, kerosene heaters, fireplaces, and wood-burning stoves, is a leading cause of fires in U.S. homes, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The term "homes" includes one - and two-family homes (including manufactured homes), apartments, townhouses, and other multi-family dwellings.
During a recent four-year period, local fire departments responded to an estimated average of 48,530 fires involving heating equipment each year. The fires resulted in 500 civilian (non-first-responder) deaths, 1,350 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage, according to NFPA's Home Heating Fires report published in 2021.
- Heating equipment caused one in seven home fires and 19% of home fire deaths.
- Most home heating fire deaths (81%) included stationary or portable space heaters.
- More than half of the home heating fire deaths were caused by placing heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as furniture, clothing, mattresses, or bedding.
- Nearly half (48%) of all home heating fires occurred in December, January, and February.
- Failure to clean equipment, such as chimney flues, accounted for a quarter of all heating equipment fires.
In addition, approximately two in five home heating equipment fires involved items that ran on what is considered solid fuel, such as wood-burning or pellet stoves or wood-burning fireplaces. However, electric-powered heating devices were responsible for the largest share of losses, accounting for more than half of the fatalities, three in five injuries, and two-fifths of the property damage.
Follow these safety tips to use space heaters safely:
- Read all instructions and use space heaters only as recommended.
- Do not leave space heaters unattended.
- Plug them directly into an outlet; most power strips and extension cords are not equipped to handle the energy spikes caused by space heaters cycling on and off.
- Unplug any other items from the outlet you are using and try to use a dedicated circuit to avoid overload.
- Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
- Turn the heaters off before you leave the room or go to sleep.
- Do not use heaters that are in disrepair or have frayed cords or damaged plugs.
- Place them on flat, level surfaces and never on furniture, counters, or carpet, which can overheat.
- Unplug and put space heaters away (out of reach of children) when not in use.
Use space heaters with care.