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Heating Safety in Cold Weather

With cold weather approaching, keeping a house warm is on everyone's to-do list.  However, heating is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries and the third leading cause of home fire deaths. December, January and February are the peak months for heating fires.


Space heaters are most often involved in home heating equipment fires, accounting for one-third of the fires. Placing the heater too close to things is the leading factor in these statistics.

If you use portable space heaters in your home, be extremely careful.

  • Remember that space heaters require SPACE—nothing that can burn should be within three feet of the heater.
  • Only use a space heater that is equipped with the safety feature that turns it off immediately if it tips over.
  • Establish a three-foot “kid free” zone around any heat source: space heaters, wood stove, etc.
  • Never leave a portable heater unattended.
  • Make sure the cord and plug aren’t damaged in any way.
  • Make sure the cord is placed such that it doesn’t pose a tripping hazard.
  • NEVER use an extension cord or power strip with a space heater because the current indicated on the heater is greater than what the extension cord can safely handle.


Chimney fires generally occur because creosote, a sticky black byproduct of wood smoke, accumulates on the inside walls of a chimney flue and catches on fire. Chimney fires can be extremely hot and can quickly destroy a chimney, roof and/or your home.


  • Keep anything that can burn 3 feet away from heating equipment (fireplace, woodstove, portable space heater).
  • Keep children 3 feet away from open fires and space heaters.
  • Have heating equipment (fireplace/ woodstove) inspected and cleaned by a professional each year.
  • Always turn off portable heaters before going to bed or before leaving a room.
  • If you use a fireplace, make sure there is a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room.
  • Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms to eliminate the risk of CO poisoning. Be sure you have smoke alarms installed and test them monthly.
  • If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Be sure to exit your house, call 9-1-1 and your local gas company.
  • Never use an oven to heat a house!
  • Allow fireplace ashes to completely cool before disposing of them. Place them in a covered metal container 10 feet away from home and other buildings.  Do not empty fireplace and woodstove ashes directly into a trash can.

For more information on heating safety, visit the National Fire Protection Association's website here