Here's How to Minimize Your Chances of Causing a Fire When Using a Space Heater

A faulty space heater is thought to have led to a fire earlier this month that killed 17 in the Bronx

With cold temperatures affecting much of the U.S. this winter, many families may turn to space heaters for warmth.

The portable devices can heat a medium-sized area of a home using electricity or a burnable fuel. But, according to the National Fire Protection Association, the devices account for around 81 percent of home heating fire deaths, with nearly half of those occurring during the winter months of December, January and February.

Most recently, a faulty space heater is thought to be the cause of an apartment fire in the Bronx that left 17 dead, including eight children, on Jan. 9.

The New York City Fire Department also said the door to the apartment where the fire took place was left open by its fleeing residents, which may have allowed the flames and smoke to spread throughout the building.

The department released a video after the fire with tips on how to best use a space heater in the home.

When using a space heater, the department advises users to: leave it on the floor, keep it away from water, and place it away from flammable objects.

Emergency first responders remain at the scene of an intense fire at a 19-story residential building that erupted in the morning on January 9, 2022 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Reports indicate over 50 people were injured.
Scott Heins/Getty

They also suggest plugging the heater directly into a wall outlet (as opposed to an extension cord) and not leaving it unattended when it's in operation.

According to the NFPA, many home heating fire deaths are caused by having the equipment close to combustible objects, such as furniture, clothing, mattresses and blankets.

"Heating is the second leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, and the third leading cause of home fire deaths," the organization said. "Local fire departments responded to an estimated average of 48,530 fires involving heating equipment per year in 2014-2018, accounting for 14 percent of all reported home fires during this time."

"These fires resulted in annual losses of 500 civilian deaths, 1,350 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage," they added.

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Many of the same tips for space heater safety can also be used for candles, which cause an estimated 15,600 fires every year.

In addition to using space heaters and candles correctly, the Red Cross advises installing smoke detectors in every level of a home, testing them every month, and speaking with family members about an escape plan in the event of a fire.

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