Because of higher heating costs, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) expects increased use of supplemental heating sources (space heaters, wood stoves, etc.) especially during the winter. With increased use comes increased fire risk.
Most fireplace and chimney fires are caused by creosote build-up. The leading cause of space heater fires is combustibles too close to the heaters.
When properly installed and maintained, propane and heating oil systems are among the safest heat sources anywhere. However, there are some basic safety measures you should take in the unlikely event you are experiencing difficulties with your heating system.
- Keep or maintain a 36-inch clearance between space heaters and anything that can burn. Never store paints, thinners or other solvents near your furnace or water heater.
- Have furnaces, wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, chimney connectors and all other heating equipment inspected annually by a professional and cleaned as often as inspectors suggest. Use only wood that is properly seasoned to reduce creosote build-up.
- Make sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room. Allow fireplace and wood stove ashes to cool before disposing in a metal container.
- Install all gas-fueled heating devices with proper attention to ventilation. If unvented gas space heaters are used in bedrooms or bathrooms, make sure they are small and well-mounted. NFPA codes prohibit use of liquefied petroleum gas heaters with self-contained fuel supplies.
- Install and maintain smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Keep all-purpose fire extinguishers on each floor of your home. Check them regularly. Know how to use them.
- Know the location of gas and oil shutoff valves and how to use them.
- Keep upstairs heating and return air duct openings clear.
- Never hang things from gas pipes or fuel oil pipes.
- Teach your children what to do in case of an emergency.