Heating Safety

Nothing is cozier than a fire - as long as it stays in the fireplace! Unfortunately, they can also be deadly. Here are a few tips to keep you and your family from being a fire statistic.

Fireplaces & Wood Stoves

  • Remember that fireplaces contain open flames. It can easily ignite any combustibles nearby!
  • Use care with "fire salts," which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten. Keep them away from children.
  • Do not burn holiday wrapping papers in the fireplace. It can throw off dangerous sparks and produce a chemical buildup in the home that could cause an explosion. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
  • Use only clean dry wood, do not burn trash. Use a metal container for ash removal and store it outside, away from combustibles such as a wood deck or pine needles.
  • Have your chimney cleaned regularly, because creosote buildup from burning wood can ignite your roof, chimney, even the whole house.
  • Use fireplace screens to confine sparks and embers.
  • Always supervise children when a fire is burning in the fireplace.
  • Do not allow children to light the fire.

Space Heaters

  • Remember that space heaters need space!
  • When selecting an alternative heater, look for one that has been tested and labeled by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
  • Read and follow the manufacturers recommendations and directions on all appliances. A good practice is to read aloud the instructions and warning labels to all members of the household to be certain that everyone understands how the heater is to be operated safely. Keep the owner’s manual in a convenient place to refer to when needed.
  • Make sure your alternative heaters have "tip switches." These "tip switches" are designed to automatically turn off the heater if the heater gets knocked over.
  • Keep children and pets away from space heaters. Some heaters have very hot surfaces. Heaters could operate in a manner that is unsafe if children are permitted to either adjust the controls or jar the heater.
  • Keep doors open to the rest of the house if you are using an unventilated, fuel-burning space heater. This helps to prevent pollutant build-up and promotes proper combustion. Even vented heaters require ventilation for proper combustion.
  • Never use a space heater overnight in the room where you are sleeping. Dangerous levels of carbon monoxide could accumulate from fuel-fired heaters, or uncontrolled burning could cause a fire.
  • Never use or store flammable liquids (such as gasoline) around a space heater. The flammable vapors can flow from one part of the room to another and be ignited by the open flame or by the electrical circuit of an electric heater.
  • Place heaters at least 3 feet away from objects such as bedding, furniture and drapes. Never use heaters to dry clothes or shoes. Do not place heaters where towels or other objects could fall on the heater and start a fire.
  • Never leave a burning heater unattended. Extinguish your heater if you’re leaving the room or area for more than a few minutes. Never use a space heater while you’re sleeping or bedridden.
  • Be sure the location you choose can be ventilated according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Do not place a heater in a doorway, hall, or walkway where it is likely to be bumped.

Kerosene Space Heaters

  • Never use gasoline in a kerosene heater. Even small quantities of gasoline in the heater tank can cause a fire.
  • Use only K-1 kerosene in kerosene heaters. Kerosene should be purchased from a dealer who can certify that it is K-1 grade kerosene. The fact that kerosene is "water clear" does not ensure that it is K-1, since both K-1 and K-2 can appear clear.
  • Never fill the fuel tank of a kerosene heater beyond the full mark because as the fuel warms, it expands and could spill and cause a fire.
  • Do not attempt to move the heater, remove the fuel tank, or refuel the heater when it is operating or hot.
  • Always refuel heater outside a building.
  • In case of flare-up or uncontrolled flaming occurs, do not attempt to move the heater. If your heater is equipped with a manual shut-off switch, activate the switch to turn off the heater. If activation of the shut-off switch does not extinguish the flame, leave the area and immediately call the fire department.
  • Keep kerosene stored outside in a seated blue container labeled "Kerosene."

Electric Heaters

  • Never use your electric heater near water. Water is a good conductor of electricity and increases the changes of electric shock. Do not touch an electric heater if your hands are wet or you are in contact with water in any way. Never use an electric heater:
  • In a bathroom
  • In a damp basement
  • Near water
  • Always unplug your heater when it is not in use. Touching an electric heating element while it is on can cause a serious burn or shock. Some heaters have electrically "live" elements whenever they are plugged in--even if the switch is turned off! The best way to prevent accidental shock or burns is to unplug your portable electric heater whenever it is not being used. Always unplug it before going to bed.

Check Safety Features

  • Be sure the grill protects the heating elements from children’s fingers and toys.
  • Keep children and pets away from heaters.
  • Be sure that the grill, cover or sides do not become hot enough to burn when touched.
  • Make sure there is a tip-over switch or a heat sensor (or both) that turns off the heater if it falls over.
  • Do not overload your wiring.
  • Plug your heater directly into an outlet if possible. If you must use an extension cord, be sure its electrical rating is as high as the one listed on the heater.
  • Some electrical heaters use the full capacity of a normal household circuit. You may not be able to use other appliances at the same time.
  • If a fuse blows or a circuit breaker trips, unplug the heater before replacing the fuse or resetting the breaker.
  • Call a professional if you have any signs of a wiring problem--frequently blown fuses, dimmed lights, hot cords or outlets.

The Apex Fire Department responds to many heater fires during colder weather. We want to remind you of the importance of proper use and maintenance of all heating devices. Using these simple rules coupled with common sense will keep your family safe and warm throughout the year.