State Fire Marshal Advises Caution with Space Heaters, Other Alternative Heating This Winter

Last Updated on January 17, 2016 by cassnetwork

Indiana State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson is advising caution with space heaters and other forms of alternative heating, as well as a review of smoke alarms.

“Strongly consider other options before using alternative heating,” says Greeson. “Add insulation or other heat-capturing barriers to window and doors. Wearing warmer clothes and adding blankets will also help with comfort. If you must use space heaters or other forms of alternative heating, take precautions.”

The fire marshal oversees the Indiana Department of Homeland Security’s (IDHS’s) Division of Fire and Building Safety.

Alternative Heating Tips

Space heaters should always be kept away from loose or flammable objects such as clothing, curtains, bedding and furniture. There should be at least a three-foot perimeter around space heaters at all times. Avoid using candles or appliances, such as a stove or oven, to heat the home.

Fireplaces should be regularly cleaned and inspected by a certified professional, such as a chimney sweep. Gas fireplaces should have properly working ventilation with a functioning carbon monoxide detector nearby.

“Creosote deposits build up quickly in chimneys and can easily catch fire,” said Greeson. “Keep anything flammable away from fireplaces, and use only paper or kindling to start a fire. Always have a fire extinguisher on hand in case the fire grows too large or out of control.”

Fires should always be extinguished and space heaters unplugged before going to bed or leaving the home for any period of time. Do not leave space heaters on in unoccupied rooms. In addition to safe heating, do not overload electrical outlets.

Fire Deaths and Smoke Alarms

“Last year Indiana had more than 70 fire-related deaths, and in a lot of these cases there was not a working smoke alarm in the home. Smoke alarms are proven to save lives,” said Greeson.

“Test your smoke detector to make sure it works. Even if it responds correctly, if you don’t remember the last time you changed your batteries, do it today,” said Greeson. “If you don’t have a smoke detector, buy one and install it. If you don’t have the funds, contact your local fire department or social service agency to see if one can be provided.”

Working smoke alarms are important to have year round, but especially in the winter months when alternative heating sources, such as space heaters and fireplaces, are used. Space heaters account for one-third of home heating fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Proper use of heating sources and working smoke alarms can be the difference between life and death, according to Greeson.

For more information on safe alternative heating safety, visit

SOURCE: News release from Indiana Department of Homeland Security

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