As energy costs reach record highs, many Americans are turning to portable electric space heaters and wood-, pellet- coal or kerosene-burning stoves, and other non-traditional heating sources to defray costs. With the increase in use comes an increase in fire risk. The Newton Fire Department encourages residents to use caution when using alternative heating equipment this winter.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), half of all home heating fires occur during the winter months. On average, NFPA research shows that heating equipment is involved in an estimated 56,000 reported U.S. home structure fires per year, with associated loss of 470 civilian deaths, 1,490 civilian injuries and roughly $1.0 billion in direct property damage per year.
“As a leading cause of home fires, heating safety is a concern for every community every winter. This year, with the projected increase in use of alternative heating equipment, families need to be especially vigilant to use all heating appliances properly,” said Fire Chief Jarrod Wellik.
The Newton Fire Department is encouraging residents using pellet stoves, wood stoves, space heaters or any other home heating equipment this winter to follow this advice:
- Space heaters need space. Keep all things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
- Turn portable heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.
- Have your chimney inspected each year by a qualified professional and cleaned if necessary.
- Use a sturdy fireplace screen.
- Wood stoves should bear the label of a qualified testing laboratory.
- In wood stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets.
- Allow ashes to cool before disposing. Dispose of ashes in a metal container.
- Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home. For the best protection interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home — when one sounds, they all sound. Test smoke alarms at least once a month.
- When using a fuel-burning portable heater, always use the proper fuel as specified by the manufacturer. When refueling, allow the appliance to cool and refuel outside.
- Install and maintain a carbon monoxide alarm outside each separate sleeping area, on every level of the home, and other locations as required by laws, codes or standards.
- Never use an oven to heat your home.