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CPSC Offers Tips to Prevent Home Fires Caused by Space Heaters, -- Devices Associated with 21,800 Fires and 300 Deaths Annually

Release Date: January 15, 2002

As fire departments across the country battle winter home fires, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reminds consumers to demonstrate care when purchasing and using space heaters. CPSC estimates that space heaters, including both fixed and portable heaters, are associated with about 21,800 residential fires every year. About 300 people die each year in fires started by these heaters.

Fuel-burning space heaters also can cause carbon monoxide poisoning and indoor air pollution, because of improper venting or incomplete combustion.

"We're still seeing too many space heater fires," said CPSC Acting Chairman Thomas Moore. "While CPSC has worked hard with industry to improve safety standards for space heaters, consumers must exercise care in their purchase and use."

Consumers should be aware that older space heaters might not meet the newer safety standards. The CPSC has worked to upgrade the industry standards on electric, kerosene and unvented gas space heaters. An automatic cut-off device is now required, which turns off electric or kerosene heaters if they tip over. More guarding around the heating coils of electric heaters and the burner of kerosene heaters also is required to prevent fires. CPSC worked to upgrade the industry standard on unvented gas heaters, as well, to provide an oxygen depletion sensor to shut off the heater if the oxygen level drops too low.

Here are some CPSC safety tips for buying and using space heaters:

1.  Select a space heater with a guard around the flame area or heating element. Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep the heater at least three feet from bedding, drapes, furniture, or other flammable materials.

2.  Choose a space heater that has been tested and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters meet specific safety standards.

3.  Keep doors open to the rest of the house if you are using an unvented fuel-burning space heater. This helps prevent pollutant build-up and promotes proper combustion. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to provide sufficient combustion air to prevent CO production.

4.  Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep. Never place a space heater close to any sleeping person.

5.  Turn the space heater off if you leave the area. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.

6.  Have a smoke detector with fresh batteries on each level of the house and a carbon monoxide detector outside your sleeping area.

7.  Be aware that mobile homes require specially designed heating equipment. Only electric or vented fuel-fired heaters should be used.

8.  Have gas and kerosene space heaters inspected annually.

Consumers who would like more information can view (also in pdf) or receive a free CPSC booklet, "What You Should Know about Space Heaters," by placing a request at or by sending a postcard to: "Space Heater Booklet," U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C. 20207.

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About the U.S. CPSC
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years. 

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