Prevention of Fires Caused by Home Heating Sources

Nationwide, a residential fire occurs every 67 seconds.

There were about 472,000 fires in residential properties in 1992, resulting in 3,750 fire deaths.

  • Check the filter once a month, change it when necessary, or at least twice a year.
  • Do Not store combustible material near the furnace.
  • Have the furnace inspected once a year and tested for leaks. Make sure the furnace is vented to the outdoors. Inspect the chimney for debris that could plug it.

  • Before buying a kerosene heater, make sure the local building and fire codes permit its use in residential structures. Also check your insurance policy to see if such use will affect the policy.
  • Buy an approved heater that has been tested by the Underwriter:s Laboratories.
  • Read the owner:s manual before operating the heater. Maintain the heater according to the manual.
  • Do Not put heaters where people walk. Keep the heater 3 feet from combustible material such as draperies or furniture.
  • Teach children to avoid the heater. The surface of some heaters can exceed 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Do Not leave a heater on when no one is at home or when you are asleep.
  • For kerosene heaters, only use K1 kerosene. It has a .04 percent sulphur content by weight. Do Not use any other type of fuel. K2 kerosene is not recommended because it has a higher sulphur content, and improper use can pose a fire or explosion hazard. Only fill the heater when it is cool.
  • Do Not use flammable solvents, aerosol sprays or lacquers near heaters.
  • Do Not use the heater in the same room where flammable liquids are stored or in dusty environments.
  • Do provide adequate ventilation for kerosene heaters. Follow the manufacturer:s directions. If there are none, open a window 1 square inch for each 1,000 BTU:s of the heater:s rating. Refer to MU guidesheet 1999, "Unvented portable kerosene heaters - safety considerations."
  • Regardless of the type of heating system you have, install and maintain smoke detectors on each level of the house. Refer to MU guidesheet 1906, "Selecting and Using a Fire Extinguisher;" and MU guidesheet 1907, "Residential Fire Detection."
  • Select a good stove and have it properly installed.
  • Locate the stove out of traffic and away from furniture and draperies.
  • Do Not store combustible materials near the stove.
  • Prevent creosote build up.
    • Do Not use wet or unseasoned wood.
    • Maintain a briskly burning fire.
    • Maintain a flue temperature above 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Inspect stove pipes and chimney flues each year before using the stove. Look for:
    • Cracked flue liners.
    • Broken or missing bricks.
    • Heavy creosote deposits.
    • Foreign material and bird nests.

  • Thoroughly clean the flue and stovepipe of any soot or residues.
  • Repair any damage before using.
  • Frequently check the stovepipe and chimney for creosote buildup during the heating season.
  • Properly dispose of wood ashes by storing them in a non-combustible metal container with a tight lid. Place the closed container on a non-combustible floor or on the ground, well away from all combustible materials.
  • Warn children not to touch the stove or stand too close to it.

For more information, see MU guidesheet 1731, "Wood Stove Maintenance and Operation;" and MU guidesheet 1735, "Cleaning Stovepipes and Chimneys."

This fact sheet was produced under Cooperative Agreement U05/CCU7060804-01 between the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and the University of Missouri. For more information call (314) 882-2731.

University Extension, University of Missouri-Columbia, Agricultural Engineering Department.

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More