Heating Equipment: Leading cause of fatal home fires


Nearly half of all home heating related fires occur between the months of December and February, according to the National Fire Safety Association. Fire places, space heaters and chimneys caused 67 home fires in Illinois last year.

“This is very dangerous time for fires and carbon monoxide poisoning,” said State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis. “Although space heaters provide heating, they could also bring major safety concerns if adequate safety precautions are not followed.” Carbon monoxide poisoning is increased during the winter says warns the Office of The Illinois State Fire Marshal (OSFM). The causes can be furnaces, fireplaces and kerosene space heaters. 

The Illinois Carbon Monoxide Detector Act (430 IL CS135) requires that every dwelling unit shall be equipped with at least one approved carbon monoxide alarm, in an operating condition, within 15 feet of every room used for sleeping purposes. 
Working smoke alarms must be placed at a maximum of 15 feet from sleeping quarters, at least one on each level (including basements).  
The National Fire Protection Association has additional safety suggestions. 
Reminders when using fireplaces and space heaters:
  • All heaters need space. Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, such as furniture, bedding, paper or other flammable items. 
  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters. Pets should also be kept away from them.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel-burning space heaters.
  • When using electric space heaters, make sure they are UL rated. 
  • Plug space heaters directly into the wall outlet, not to extension cords.
  • If kerosene space heaters are used, look for UL rated labels. Make sure the heater is vented to avoid carbon monoxide problems. 
  • Turn off space heaters when you leave a room or go to bed.
  • Wood burning fireplaces should only be used by adults.
  • Wood fireplaces should always be kept clean to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning or smoke inhalation.
  • Light the fireplace using a utility lighter or long match.


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