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Report Says Portable Heater Fires in Residential Buildings Cause About 70 Deaths Each Year



This news story was published on September 30, 2012.
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Portable heaters were involved in 45 percent of all fatal heating fires in residential buildings, reports say.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) announced the release of a special report examining the characteristics of portable heater fires in residential buildings. The report, Portable Heater Fires in Residential Buildings (2008-2010), was developed by USFA’s National Fire Data Center and is based on 2008 to 2010 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS).

According to the report:

  • An estimated 900 portable heater fires in residential buildings are reported to U.S. fire departments each year and cause an estimated 70 deaths, 150 injuries and $53 million in property loss.
  • Only 2 percent of heating fires in residential buildings involved portable heaters, however, portable heaters were involved in 45 percent of all fatal heating fires in residential buildings.
  • Portable heater fires in residential buildings peaked in January (26 percent).
  • 52 percent of portable heater fires in residential buildings occurred because the heat source was too close to combustibles.
  • 38 percent of portable heater fires in residential buildings originated in bedrooms. In these fires, bedding, such as blankets, sheets and comforters, was the leading item first ignited by portable heaters at 25 percent.

While portable heating fires were small in number, the consequences were substantial, accounting for nearly half of all fatal heating fires in residential buildings. Many of these fires were preventable as human error–placing the heater too close to combustible items or leaving the heater unattended–was a contributing factor to the fire. You can prevent a portable heater fire in your home this winter by following a few fire safety steps:

  • Turn heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.
  • Only purchase and use portable space heaters from a recognized testing laboratory with an automatic shut-off so that if they’re tipped over they will shut off.
  • Plug portable heaters directly into outlets and never into an extension cord or power strip.
  • Inspect heaters for cracked or damaged cords, broken plug or loose connections. Replace before using the heater.
  • For portable kerosene or other liquid-fueled space heaters, always use the proper grade of the proper fuel.
  • More heating fire safety tips »

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