Homeland Security and Emergency Services

Winter Fire Safety

As winter's cold begins to bear down upon us, the high cost of home heating fuels and utilities will undoubtedly cause many New Yorkers to search for alternate sources of home heating this winter. The use of wood burning stoves will grow and space heaters will certainly sell rapidly, or at least come out of storage. Folks will use their fireplaces for burning wood and manmade logs. All these methods of heating are acceptable; however they serve as major contributing factors in residential fires.

Many of these fires can be prevented. The Office of Fire Prevention and Control wants you to know that you can easily prevent the loss of life and property resulting from heating fires by simply identifying potential hazards and following the safety tips contained in the other factsheets linked to this page.

Sixty percent of residential heating related fires are the result of misuse or failure to properly maintain the heating equipment. With the high cost of fuels, many New Yorkers might be tempted to skimp on preventive maintenance, but that could be penny wise and pound foolish.

Furnaces and chimneys should be checked by a professional every year before the start of the heating season. Wood, pellet, and coal stoves must be installed safely and correctly in order to ensure they function properly and safely.

Portable Space Heaters may provide some extra warmth in a cold or drafty corner or shop, but they are not designed to replace household heating systems - use them sparingly. Portable heaters cause only two (2) percent of heating fires in homes, but are involved in 45 percent of all fatal heating fires in homes! Fires caused by portable heaters can be prevented by: (1) making sure heaters are turned off when you go to bed or leave the room; (2) keeping any combustible items (bedding, clothing, curtains, etc.) at least three feet from portable heaters and (3) plugging portable heaters directly into outlets and never into extension cords or power strips. Only use portable heaters from a recognized testing laboratory and with an automatic shut-off (in case they accidentally tip over).

To learn more about heating safely this winter, check out these other fire safety fact sheets from OFPC.

Home Heating Fire Safety

Home Fire Safety Tips

Chimney Fire safety

Carbon Monoxide Safety