Home Heating Systems Leading Cause of Home Fires and Fatalities
As temperatures lower specifically 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. In 2015, two separate civilian fatalities occurred as a result of home heating devices to close to combustible materials.
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).
- Heating equipment fires accounted for 16% of all reported home fires in 2009-2013 (second behind cooking) and 19% of home fire deaths (second behind smoking materials).
- Space heaters are the type of heating equipment most often involved in home heating fires, figuring in two of every five of these fires and accounting for 84% of associated civilian deaths, 75% of civilian injuries, and 52% of direct property damage.
- The leading factor contributing to ignition for home heating fire deaths (56%) was heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding.
- The leading factor contributing to home heating fires (30%) was failure to clean, principally 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.
For these and other fire safety tips visit the Columbia Fire Department’s website: http://columbiarichlandfire.net/community-safety-information/ .