Home Heating Leads in Causes of U.S. Home Fires; Tips to Heat Your Home Safely

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Home heating is one of the leading causes of home fires and home fire injuries in this country, and the third leading cause of home fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Most of these fires occur in December, January and February. Space heaters account for one-third of the fires, as well as the vast majority of deaths and injuries caused by heating equipment.

Since the start of the year 2024, the American Red Cross has responded to 1797 home fires, providing help to 6799 people.

STEPS TO HELP HEAT YOUR HOME SAFELY

  • Have furnaces, chimneys, fireplaces, wood and coal stoves inspected and cleaned annually.
  • If using a space heater, look for a model that shuts off automatically if the heater falls over. Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface in the home.
  • 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.
  • Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • 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.
  • Test batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Working smoke alarms can cut the risk of dying in a home fire by half. Place smoke alarms on each level of your home, and inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Change the batteries at least once a year, if your model requires it. Also, check the manufacturer’s date of your smoke alarms. If they’re 10 years or older, they need to be replaced because the sensor becomes less sensitive over time. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Practice your escape plan until everyone can get out in less than two minutes. To create your home fire escape plan, include at least two ways to exit every room in your home. Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone knows to meet. Teach children what a smoke alarm sounds like. Talk about fire safety and what to do in an emergency.

RED CROSS HOME FIRE CAMPAIGN

In 2014, the Red Cross launched its Home Fire Campaign to help educate people about home fire safety and install free smoke alarms in neighborhoods at high risk for fires. Since then, the effort has helped save 2,022 lives and installed 2.6 million free smoke alarms, helping to make more than 1.1 million homes safer across the country. You can learn more here.

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