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Insurance commissioner: Exercise caution with portable heaters

Posted on January 13, 2022

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Fire from a portable heater burns a couch in a live fire demonstration conducted by the N.C. Department of Insurance and Office of the State Fire Marshal.

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Fire from a portable heater burns a couch in a live fire demonstration conducted by the N.C. Department of Insurance and Office of the State Fire Marshal.

With cold temperatures and potential wintry weather in the forecast, N.C. Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey is urging North Carolinians to use extra caution when using portable heaters.

Many people will be using fireplaces and portable space heaters to stay warm. Portable heaters can ignite, as one did Sunday in New York City, where 17 people, including eight children, died.

“One life lost in fire is one life too many,” said Causey, who is also the state fire marshal. “It is important for families to know the dangers associated with home heating so they can take extra precautions during the upcoming blast of winter weather.”

Five people lost their lives in North Carolina home fires in the first 12 days of 2022, according to N.C. Department of Insurance figures. Last year, there were 134 fire deaths across the state.

Each year during the winter months, there is an increase in the number of home fires related to the various forms of heating. According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating is the second leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries in the U.S. behind cooking.

Nearly 90% of home heating fire deaths involve stationary or portable space heaters. The leading factor that contributes to home heating fire deaths was heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding.

HOME HEATING TIPS

Causey offers these tips for home heating during the winter months:

• Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.

• Have a 3-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.

• Never use your oven to heat your home.

• Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.

• Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel-burning space heaters.

• Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container, placed on a non-combustible area and stored a safe distance away from your home.

• When using a space heater, always plug it into a wall outlet.

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