15 percent of home fires are due to home heating mishaps

By Jennifer Fabiano, AccuWeather staff writer

Eighty percent of fire deaths in the United States occur in the home, according to the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) home structures fires report, released in September 2017.

“Home is the place people feel safest from home fires, but it’s the place they’re at greatest risk,” said Susan McKelvey, the communications manager for the NFPA.

Home heating is the second leading cause of a home fire, according to the American Red Cross. The first is cooking equipment. According to the NFPA, 15 percent of reported home fires are caused by home heating equipment.

Home heating graphic

Though fires are a concern whenever the heat is on in a home, the peak months for home heating fires are December, January and February. Nearly half of home heating fires occur during these three months.

Portable and stationary space heaters account for over two of every five home heating fires.

According the American Red Cross, over half of families in the United States use space heaters to stay warm.

The Red Cross recommends never leaving portable heaters unattended, never leaving food on the stove unattended and buying a space heater that shuts off automatically if the heater falls over.

In addition, homeowners should never use a cooking range or oven to heat their home.

The leading factor of home heating fires was failure to clean home heating equipment, including chimneys, according to the NFPA report.

Another factor homeowners should be aware of is that placing things that can burn too close to heating equipment is extremely dangerous and is the third leading cause of home heating fires.

Home fire

In this Dec. 25, 2011 file photo, firefighters investigate a house in Stamford, Conn., where an early morning fire left five people dead. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg, File)

“Smoke alarms and home escape planning are essential to home fire safety,” McKelvey said.

Smoke alarms alert people to fire in the home and give them the time needed to escape safely. The NFPA recommends installing interconnected smoke alarms in every sleeping room and on every level of the home.

Homeowners should install both ionization smoke alarms, which are quicker to warn about flaming fires, and photoelectric alarms, which are quicker to warn about smoldering fires.

These alarms should be tested at least once a month by pressing the test button to see if the alarm sounds. Smoke alarms in homes should be replaced every 10 years.

Home escape plans ensure that everyone in the home knows how to use the time provided by the smoke alarm in order to exit the house safely.

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The NFPA recommends walking through the home and inspecting all possible exit routes. Drawing out an escape plan with two options, including windows and doors, is best to ensure each house member remembers the plan in the case of an emergency.

Unblocking exits of rooms and homes is a huge step in creating a better escape plan. One of the most important things to remember is that once outside the home, a person should always stay outside.

A comprehensive guide to creating a home heating escape plan can be found on the NFPA website.

For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.

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