Use Space Heaters and Home Heating Equipment Safely

Home heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in Massachusetts. Because half of all home heating fires occur in December, January and February, now is the time to consider if you are heating your home safely.

The most important step is to make sure your smoke alarm has working batteries. Also, have your home heating equipment checked and serviced by a qualified professional each year. They can identify problems and clear any debris in your chimney or vents. Any obstruction increases the chance of fire and can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be fatal. Other ways to protect your family and home:

Space Heaters
Space heaters cause 33 percent of all home heating fires and 81 percent of home heating fire deaths, according to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). If you have an older model, consider purchasing a new one with an automatic shut-off feature. Also, search for your model on the Internet to make sure it has not been recalled. The best resource is the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.

Use space heaters on even surfaces and always keep them three feet away from combustibles, such as bed spreads and clothing. Also keep children and pets at least this far away.

Do not use an extension cord and use space heaters on a flat surface where they will not tip over. Remember to turn it off before you go to sleep or if you leave the room.

No Overloaded Electrical Outlets
Be careful not to overload electrical outlets. Space heaters draw a large amount of electricity. Shift around appliances if you think you may be overloading an outlet.

Keep Vents Clear
Monitor your indoor and outdoor heating vents throughout the winter. When it snows, clear your outside heating vents even before you shovel your driveway.

Wood, Coal and Pellet Stoves
In Massachusetts, you need a building permit to install wood, pellet or coal burning stoves and fireplaces. They must be inspected by a local building inspector prior to use.
Last year, there were over 800 fire incidents in Massachusetts involving chimneys, fireplaces and woodstoves. Many result from a build-up of creosote, a by-product of burning wood.

Read the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use your heating equipment. Do not use flammable liquids to start a fire. For fireplaces, check that the damper is open before starting a fire so there is not a build-up of smoke and carbon monoxide.

Use the fireplace screen to prevent flames and sparks from moving outside the fireplace and causing burns and injuries. Do not close the damper until the fire is fully out.

When finished, dispose of ashes in a metal ash can and keep it outside your home and garage. Also keep it away from porches and decks.

Make sure you have proper ventilation before you start cooking. Do not use grills inside your home.

Heating fire safety: Wood Stoves, Space Heaters and Fireplaces, U.S. Fire Administration.

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