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State Fire Marshal's Office urges Tennesseans to use portable heaters safely

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 | 05:46am

NASHVILLE, TN – According to the U.S. Fire Administration, an estimated 900 portable heater fires in homes are reported to U.S. fire departments each year and cause an estimated 70 deaths, 150 injuries and $53 million in property loss.

“We cannot stress enough the importance of following safety precautions when using portable heating devices in your home,” said State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak. “Keeping fire safety in mind can help save lives and property.”
Only 2 percent of heating fires in homes involve portable heaters; however, portable heaters are involved in 45 percent of all fatal heating fires in homes.
Tennessee is not immune to the devastation caused by portable heater fires. Media coverage of fires here includes frequent reports of incidents involving portable heaters during the winter months. Just last week, such a fire claimed the life of a Collierville man when one of the space heaters he was using in his home came in contact with a flammable object while he slept.
In 2011, portable heating equipment accounted for 70 percent of all heating fire deaths in Tennessee and caused $2.5 million in property damage. The leading factors contributing to ignition in those portable heating fires were abandoned or discarded materials and combustibles too close to the heat source.  
You can help prevent a portable heater fire in your home this winter by following a few fire safety steps:
  • Turn heaters off when you go to bed or leave a room.
  • Keep anything that can burn, including bedding, clothing, curtains, pets and people at least three feet away from portable heaters.
  • Only use portable heaters from a recognized testing laboratory and with an automatic shut-off so that if they tip over, they shut off.
  • Plug portable heaters directly into outlets and never into an extension cord or power strip. 
  • Check the cord for fraying, cracking and look for broken wires or signs of overheating in the device itself.
  • Never run the heater cord (or any cord) under rugs or carpeting.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, having a working smoke alarm reduces a person's chance of dying in a fire by half.  For the best protection, install smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside every sleeping area and in every bedroom, and interconnect them if possible.  Test smoke alarms monthly and entirely replace any smoke alarm that is 10 years old or older.
For more tips on home fire safety, refer to our checklist at
The State Fire Marshal’s Office ( is a division of the Department of Commerce and Insurance (, which works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee., @TNCommerceInsur (Twitter), (Facebook), (YouTube) 

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