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Top five ways to prevent heating fires in your home

Feb. 23, 2017

Photo of a blanket catching fire on a space heater during a demonstration.
Photo: You’ll still need to keep your home warm this winter, but if you use a space heater to do it, keep it at least three feet from anything combustible – like towels and couches.​


These balmy, 60-degree February days have been lovely, haven’t they? Here’s hoping you made it to the park for a long walk or at least fired up the grill once or twice. But one glance at tomorrow’s forecast will remind you that winter isn’t over yet.

When the snow starts flying again, you’ll likely need to bust out your space heater or snuggle up to the fireplace at least one more time. But when you do, it’s important to remember that heating is the leading cause of residential fires in Minnesota year after year after year. It’s a little counterintuitive: Because we live in a place that gets ridiculously cold for days or even weeks at a time every year, you’d think we’d be pros at this heating thing. Unfortunately, the 283 home heating fires in 2015 and dozens in 2016 say we’re not.

For the most part, these fires are the results of correctable mistakes or preventable accidents: People fall asleep with space heaters on. They toss their wet gloves or mittens on top of something hot enough to heat an entire room (so think what that will do to the mittens!). People plug space heaters into flimsy extension cords and leave combustibles next to their fireplaces. Or little ones, coming in from a snowball fight, don’t understand that a space heater isn’t the best place to dry out their damp winter coat.

Again, though, preventing a heating fire in your home is incredibly easy. Just read the following tips, and you’ll be on your way.

Top five home heating safety tips

1. Keep space heaters three feet from anything combustible.

2. Do not leave space heaters unattended and turn them off while you’re sleeping.

3. Plug space heaters directly into the wall, not an extension cord or power strip.

4. Never use your oven to heat your home.

5. Make sure your wood stove or fireplace is properly ventilated.

Additionally, share these tips with your kids. And make sure the really little ones are supervised when they’re in the same room as a space heater. The lights, buttons and dials can be tempting!

Sometimes, despite all the preparation and caution in the world, home fires do happen. So just remember that smoke alarms save lives — but only if they work. Test your alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. A working alarm can give you the valuable seconds you need to escape in the event there is a fire in your home.