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Home Heating Safety

Home Heating Fires are the Leading Cause of Home Fires and Fatalities.

As we are expected to continue with cooler temperatures over the weekend, Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins encourages the citizens of the City of Columbia and Richland County to use caution while heating your homes as some heating sources that comfort us also is a leading cause of home fires and fire fatalities.

Placing things that can burn too close to heating equipment or placing heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding, was the leading factor contributing to ignition in fatal home heating fires and accounted for more than half (56%) of home heating fire deaths nationally.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is a leading cause of fires in U.S. homes. These homes included one- and two-family homes (including manufactured homes) and apartments (including townhouses and other multi-family dwellings).  

  • 2009-2013, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 56,000 reported U.S. home structure fires, with associated losses of 470 civilian deaths, 1,490 civilian injuries, and $1.0 billion in direct property damage. These fires accounted for 16% of all reported home fires. 
  • Space heaters, whether portable or stationary, accounted for two of every five (40%) of home heating fires and four out of five (84%) of home heating fire deaths.
  • The leading factor contributing to home heating fires (30%) was failure to clean, principally creosote from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys.

Although Chief Jenkins does not recommend the use of space heaters he understands that citizens will use them as a secondary or even primary heat source but encourages you not to leave them unattended, don’t go to sleep with them on and to keep combustibles at least three feet away.

By following these basic fire safety precautions and making small modifications, you can greatly reduce the risk of home heating fires.

  • All heaters need space. Keep things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
  • Use heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instruction. Have a qualified professional install the equipment.
  • Make sure all fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.  CO poisoning can cause illness and even death.
  • Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms inside your home to provide early warning of carbon monoxide.
  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional.
  • Turn space heaters off when you leave a room or go to sleep.          
  • Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.
  • Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations, and flammable materials.
  • Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces. Leave glass doors open while burning a fire.
  • Keep air inlets on wood stoves open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces. Otherwise you may cause creosote buildup that could lead to a chimney fire.