The National Fire Protection Association names portable space heaters as the leading cause of heating system fires during the months of December, January and February. It is involved in 32 percent of heating system fires and 73 percent of heating system fire deaths, with the most common cause of these fires placing combustible material too close to heaters. The Wrightsville Beach Fire Department recommended avoiding the use of portable space heaters, and suggested residents heating their homes this winter observe the following safety tips:
All Space Heaters
• Keep all combustible material at least three feet from your heater.
• Never store anything on top of your heater.
• Turn off your heater when you leave the house or go to bed.
Electric Space Heaters
• Choose a heater that will automatically cut itself off when tipped over.
• Plug the power cord into an electrical outlet that is properly rated for the heater. Never use an extension cord.
• Check to make sure cords and wires are not frayed or otherwise damaged. Do not use if either are damaged.
• Always unplug your heater when it is not in use.
• Never fill up a kerosene heater inside your house; take it outside and away from any combustible materials. Be careful not to overfill your heater.
• Always use the proper fuel for the heater. Never fill with gasoline or camp fuel.
• Make sure kerosene heaters are located in a well-ventilated room.
Fireplaces and Woodstoves
• Make sure all fireplaces and woodstoves are installed in strict compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Use a heavy-duty screen that covers your fireplace’s entire hearth to catch any fly ash. Keep combustible material at least three feet from your fireplace or woodstove.
• Two-thirds of chimney fires result from unclean chimneys. Have your chimney professionally cleaned at the beginning of each heating season.
• Check to make sure the damper is open before starting a fire. Never close your damper with hot ashes still in the fireplace. Hot ash can cause a build-up of carbon monoxide.
• Dispose of fireplace ash correctly. Soak in water and place away from combustible material. Hot ash can smolder for days.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
• Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home and near each sleeping area.
• Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors once a year.
• Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors monthly, and be sure to change the batteries at least once a year.