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State fire marshal warns the public to beware of fire danger from alternative heat sources

Heating equipment leading cause of fatal home heating fires in U.S.

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[January 18, 2014]  SPRINGFIELD The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal is raising awareness about winter fire risks, especially with the use of space heaters and fireplaces as alternative sources to heat homes. Nearly half of all home heating-related fires occur from December to February, according to the National Fire Safety Association.

"This is (a) very dangerous time for fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. During this rough winter, it is imperative to remind the public of the proper use of space heaters and other ways to stay warm," said State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis. "Although space heaters provide heating, they could also bring major safety concerns if adequate safety precautions are not followed."

In Illinois in 2012, 67 home fires were caused by alternative heaters and 67 other fires were linked to chimneys and fireplaces. The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal recommends giving heating equipment 3 feet of space between the device and anything that can burn, including people. It is also important to make sure there is adequate overhead clearance for space heaters.

The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal also reminds residents about the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by many furnaces, fireplaces and kerosene space heaters. It is important to keep all systems and fireplaces well-maintained and clean. If a kerosene space heater is used, make sure it is vented to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Illinois Carbon Monoxide Detector Act (430 IL CS135) requires that every dwelling unit and every structure that contains more than one dwelling must be equipped with at least one approved carbon monoxide alarm in an operating condition within 15 feet of every room used for sleeping purposes. Working smoke alarms must be placed at a maximum of 15 feet from sleeping quarters and at least one on each level, including basements.

Remember the following safety practices when using space heaters or fireplaces:

  • All heaters need space. Keep anything that can burn such as furniture, bedding, paper or other flammable items at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.

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  • Have a 3-foot "kid-free zone" around open fires and space heaters. Pets should also be kept away from fireplaces and heaters.

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

  • When using electric space heaters, make sure they are UL-rated.

  • Plug space heaters directly into the wall outlet, not to extension cords.

  • If kerosene space heaters are used, look for UL-rated labels. Make sure the heater is vented to avoid carbon monoxide problems.

  • Turn off space heaters when you leave a room or go to bed.

  • Wood-burning fireplaces should only be used by adults.

  • Wood fireplaces should always be kept clean to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning or smoke inhalation.

  • Use a utility lighter or long match to light a fireplace.

These are reminders. Be smart and fire-safe. For more information on fire safety, visit the OSFM website or

[Text from Office of the State Fire Marshal file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]


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