Portable Heater Fire Safety

The U.S. Fire Administration reported in September 2012 that while 2 percent of heating fires in residential buildings involved portable heaters, they were involved in 45 percent of all fatal heating fires in residential buildings.  And the incidence peaks in the month of January.

Given the status of residential buildings damaged in Breezy Point as a result of Hurricane Sandy, our risks are greatly increased. DO NOT BECOME A STATISTIC. (Remember, firefighters are not immune or exempt from these risks!)



  • Portable heaters should not be left unattended in the “On” mode. Do NOT leave your home with the heater “on.”
  • Keep portable heaters at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn or catch fire. (38 percent of portable heater fires in residential buildings originated in bedrooms. In these fires, bedding, such as blankets, sheets and comforters, was the leading item first ignited by portable heaters at 25 percent.)
  • Ensure that there is proper ventilation (e.g. open window) when using gas-fired heaters. Fireplaces often actually deplete warm air from a room by sucking it up the chimney with the smoke from the fireplace. But, if you chose to use it, remember to make sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room. Allow fireplace and woodstove ashes to cool before disposing in a metal container.
  • Do NOT use your oven as a source of heat.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
  • Install wood burning stoves following manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional do the installation. All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
  • Install and maintain CO detectors to avoid the risk of CO poisoning. If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call Point Breeze Fire Department, ConEd gas, or dial 9-1-1.
  • For electric heaters, choose models that have automatic safety switches that turn off the unit if it is tipped over accidentally.
  • Always look for a label or tag indicating the heater has been tested/approved by a recognized independent testing lab.
  • Check the cord before plugging in an electric heater. If frayed, worn or broken, do not use. Instead, have an electrician replace the cord or replace the heater. Remember: simply putting tape on the cord is not enough to prevent overheating and fire.
  • Never use an extension cord with an electric portable heater.
  • Keep portable electric heaters away from wet or damp places to avoid deadly electric shocks.
  • Do not hang items to dry above the heater.

Please read our article on The Facts About Carbon Monoxide Poisoning to make sure you protect your family from its dangers as well.