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Winter’s Coming: Portable Heater Fires


It’s that time of year again! Heating your home over the coming winter months will be necessary but can also be very dangerous. Using a portable heater for those “hard to heat areas” or “colder areas of the home” has become commonplace. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), portable heaters were involved in 45% of all fatal heating fires in residential buildings. The number of portable heating fires was actually quite small. But for this type of fire, the consequences were deadly.

Interestingly, many of these fires are preventable as human error is a large contributing factor. Data collected by the USFA between the years of 2008 and 2010 shows that there were an estimated 900 portable heater fires in residential buildings resulting in 70 deaths, 150 injuries and $53 million in loss of property. These types of fires peak in January (26%) during the typically coldest month of winter and 38% of these fires originate in the bedroom. Bedding was the leading item first ignited representing 25%. One or two family dwellings accounted for more than 89% of portable heater fires. A few fire safety tips to prevent such an occurrence include:

•    Only purchase heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

•    Make sure your portable heater has an automatic shut-off in case it is tipped over.

•    Never plug the heater into an extension cord or power strip. The heater must be directly connected to an outlet.

•    Always unplug the heater when not in use.

•    Position the heater at least 3 feet away from any furniture, bedding, etc.

CED engineers have investigated hundreds of fire related cases. The CED team of engineers has backgrounds in mechanical, electrical, chemical, and civil engineering as well as fire science. Cases include; fire origin and cause determination in houses and buildings, malfunctions that resulted in fires in vehicles and boats, fires in mechanical and electrical equipment and fires in portable kerosene heaters and household appliances. CED experts have also investigated explosions, sprinkler system designs and malfunctions and fire alarm failures. Please call 800.780.4221 for more information.

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