Heating Is Second-Highest Cause of Fires in U.S.


If your apartment’s heating system is controlled by your building’s superintendent, you might have sat around before in multiple layers, shivering, waiting for signs of life from the radiator. Consequently, you may seek alternative methods for heating your apartment in the winter, which could cause a fire if you’re not careful.

Each year, cold apartment dwellers turn to space heaters, ovens, candles, and other creative solutions in search of a little warmth. Some of these methods should never be used, while others can be used, but must be monitored carefully.

For instance, space heaters are generally safe, but become dangerous when not used correctly. Fires caused by the improper use of space heaters are responsible for more than a billion dollars in property damage each year, according to the National Fire Protection Agency. From 2009 to 2013 they were responsible for 40 percent of all home fires and 84 percent of home heating fire fatalities, the NFPA writes.

These fires, and others sparked from the use of alternative heat sources are avoidable, and keeping the following safety precautions in mind could prevent a fire.

Space Heaters Are Safe as Long as They Are Used Correctly

If the radiator the apartment came with does an inadequate job heating an apartment, most people turn to space heaters for warmth. Space heaters are great for just this type of thing, but if they are not used correctly, they can cause a fire and potentially burn apartment dwellers.

For many years heating equipment was the leading cause of home fires, but since the 1980s it has consistently been the second leading cause. Heating equipment fires could be reduced further if people remembered one simple rule: Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, as recommended by the NFPA.

Currently, in 21 percent of fires caused by heating equipment, the fire was started because the heater was too close to something flammable. Even worse, 59 percent of people killed in heating equipment fires died in a fire that began because of the heater’s proximity to a flammable material.

As a result, never set up a space heater on a potentially flammable surface like carpet and never use it to dry clothing. The NFPA also recommends that space heaters never be left running unattended, especially while someone is sleeping.

Now is the time to start following these safety precautions, because half of all home heating fires occur during just three months: December, January, and February.

Built to Cook, Not Heat

When the heater isn’t working sufficiently and the temperature begins to drop, people can get desperate for a little warmth. In such times, desperate people in apartment buildings may turn to an obvious source of heat — the oven.

Ovens are meant for cooking and heating up food, not heating up an apartment. Although it may be tempting to turn the oven up to 450 degrees and open its door, this is an extreme fire hazard.

Using the oven to heat an apartment presents another danger as well. Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that is nearly impossible to identify when it’s in a room, and the oven will release it into the apartment if it is left open, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control.

Moderate levels of CO can lead to headaches, dizziness, vomiting, chest pain, confusion, and eventually fainting, but if exposure continues it could be fatal, the CDC warns. CO can be detected if a person owns a CO detector, which works the same way as a smoke detector, and is very easy to install.

Candles: Good For Intimacy, Not Heat

Candles are good for setting the right mood or making a room smell good, not heating an apartment. In dire moments, people may turn to candles as a cheap way to heat their home. However, candles are responsible for nearly 10,000 fires every year, and three percent of home fire deaths, according to the NFPA.

Using candles for something like a dinner party is safe because when the party’s over, the candles get put out. When they are used for heat on the other hand, candles pose a greater danger because they are left to burn much longer, increasing the likelihood they will be forgotten about.

Unsurprisingly, the room where most candle fires start is in the bedroom. If someone decides to use candles to heat a bedroom, it is very likely he or she will fall asleep with the candles still burning, something the NFPA strongly advises against. Candles should only be burned for a short period of time, and kept within eyesight while they are burning, the NFPA says.

It is also recommended that burning candles be kept at least 12 inches from anything that can burn. Mattresses, curtains, books, and clothing, among other flammables, that catch fire after coming contact with a candle are responsible for 58 percent of all candle-related fires, according to the NFPA.

What If I Was Burned In An Apartment Fire?

Apartment fires, no matter how they start, can lead to devastating burns that are life changing. At Morgan & Morgan, our burn injury attorneys have seen the effects severe burns can have on people and their loved ones, and know what it takes to hold someone responsible.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation to find out if one of our fire/burn injury attorneys can help with your case.