Think Space Heater Safety

As the cold weather makes its return to Massachusetts, many people are bringing out the portable space heaters.

Always practice caution when using space heaters. Each year, space heaters cause death, injury and substantial property damage in both Massachusetts and across the country.

In 2007, U.S. fire departments responded to 66,400 home structure fires that involved heating equipment, according to the National Fire Protection Association. These fires killed 580 people, injured another 1,850, and were responsible for $608 million in direct property damage.

In Massachusetts, there were 57 space heater fires between 2004 and 2008, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal. One in every six space heater fires caused a fatality.

The leading cause of space heater fires is when the appliance gets too close to combustible materials, such as furniture, carpeting or bedding. Other space heaters are also defective, improperly made and should never have been sold to consumers.

If you are using a space heater this winter:

  • Keep the space heater at least three feet away from flammable items, such as rugs, curtains, blankets or clothing.
  • Use a space heater to supplement your furnace. A space heater should not be your primary source of heat. If you are worried about having your heat shut off, learn more about the state’s Utility Shutoff Protection program.
  • Do not leave a space heater in a room unattended while it is turned on or plugged in.
  • Take caution not to use a space heater when you are sleepy. Many fires happen when someone falls asleep near a space heater.
  • Do not allow small children near a space heater.
  • Do not use an extension cord with your space heater. Many space heater fires start when an extension cord ignites a carpet, rug or wood floor. If an extension cord is needed, use one that is new and rated by the Underwriters Laboratory at 16-gauge or thicker.
  • Purchase a space heater with an automatic shut off. This will stop the device from working if tipped over.
  • Inspect your space heater for cracks and broken parts. If you see a problem, replace it before using.

For more information on space heater safety, visit the National Fire Protection Association’s website. We also urge you to check regularly to see if your space heater has been recalled. You can search for your model on the recall section of the Consumer Product Safety Commission website. If you don’t find anything, try a simple Google search. Space heaters are regularly recalled, as are other devices. Manufacturers make design mistakes, or errors are made somewhere along distribution. Other times products are marketed incorrectly. Even if you register products with the company, you really have to be proactive and search for product recalls yourself to protect your family. We should not have to check; manufacturers have a responsibility to fully test products before making them available to consumers. Because this does not always happen, it’s important to check for space heater recalls¬†on your own.


The Boston personal injury lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck promote safety education for the public. With over 100 years combined experience,our attorneys handle cases of premises liability, personal injury, defective products and accidents. If you have been injured, learn your legal rights for seeking compensation. Contact us today at 800-379-1244 or use our form.