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Heating High On The List Of Home Fire Causes

The weather is beginning to turn cooler across much of the country and people are starting to turn the heat back on. In addition to their main source of home heat, almost half of the families in the United States use alternate heating sources such as space heaters, fireplaces, or coal or wood stoves to stay warm.

HOME FIRES: Be Red Cross Ready!
  • Home fires pose the biggest threat to U.S. families
  • The Red Cross responds to about 170 fires a day – one fire response every eight minutes.
  • Follow these steps to be prepared for fire emergencies.

These supplemental heating sources can be dangerous if not used properly. Fires related to heating are the second leading cause of home fires in this country, and fixed and portable space heaters are involved in 74 percent of fire-related deaths.

During National Fire Prevention Month, the American Red Cross urges everyone to use caution when using these different methods of keeping their home warm and offers the following safety tips on how to prevent fires:

  • Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces.
  • Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
  • If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over as another safety measure.
  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  • Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year.

Most people don't realize that home fires are the biggest disaster threat to all of us in this country – ahead of floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. The Red Cross responds to as many as 63,000 home fires every year. That's 170 fires a day or one fire response every eight minutes.

Planning for fire emergencies is important. Make sure all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home, and set up a meeting place outside in case of fire. Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year and at different times of the day. Teach household members to stop, drop and roll if their clothing should catch on fire.

Smoke alarms save lives. You should:

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • Check monthly that smoke alarms are working properly by pushing the test button.
  • Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year.
  • Replace smoke alarms every ten years.

For more information about fire safety and steps you can take to be prepared, visit