Heating fires have been a leading cause of fires in Minnesota for the last several years. Nearly all of the death, injury and dollar loss could have been prevented with proper understanding and safe use of heating equipment. Safety should be your first consideration when heating your home.
Here are some safety tips to remember:
Fireplaces – If purchasing a fireplace, select one that is listed by a testing laboratory and have it installed according to manufacturers’ recommendations and local codes.
- Chimneys need to be inspected by a professional sweep prior to the start of each heating season and periodically throughout the year.
- Have chimneys cleaned if there is a buildup of creosote. Creosote is a chemical substance that forms when wood burns, builds up on the chimney wall, and is highly combustible.
- Fireplace screens should be firmly in place when you burn fires.
- Burn only clean, well seasoned, dry firewood in the fireplace.
- Make sure smoke detectors are installed and working
Space/Portable Heaters – Portable heaters come in many shapes and sizes and use a variety of fuels or power sources. When purchasing or using a space/portable heater, make sure it carries a UL or FM label and is approved for the use you intended.
- Place any portable device a minimum of 36 inches from anything combustible, including: wallpaper, bedding, clothing, pets and people.
- Space heaters need constant watching and should be turned off when you leave your home and before bedtime.
- Drying mittens or other combustibles over a space/portable heater is a fire danger.
- Make sure all cords on electric heaters are in good shape and checked periodically for any frays or breaks in the insulation surrounding the wires.
- Check the cord and outlet occasionally for overheating; if it feels hot, discontinue use.
- Liquid-fueled heaters, such as kerosene, are not generally recommended for use inside the home for several reasons:
- They are a non-vented unit; extreme caution with proper openings to the outside is necessary to eliminate the possibility of asphyxiation.
- When using these types of heating devices, manufacturers’ recommendations must be followed faithfully.
- Units must be cooled before refueling; this should take place outside of the structure. Fuel must be stored in a container approved by the fire department and clearly marked with the fuel name.
Our best recommendation is to use space/portable heaters cautiously and know the operating, maintenance and refueling procedures of your unit. Do not deviate from what is recommended.
Wood Stoves – Stoves should bear the name of a testing laboratory and meet local fire codes. Contact your local building or fire official if you have questions or concerns about a unit.
- Follow manufacturers’ recommendations for proper use and maintenance.
- Maintain clearances around stoves, flue pipes, and floors according to manufacturers’ recommendations.
- Check all connections at the beginning of the heating season.
If you have questions about fire protection devices, contact your local Fire Department or the State Fire Marshal at (612) 215-0500.
For additional information, contact Robert Dahm, Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division, at Robert.Dahm@state.mn.us or (651) 215-0500.
Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division
444 Cedar St., Suite 145
St. Paul, MN 55101-5145
(651) 215-0500 – voice
(651) 215-0525 – fax
(651) 282-6555 – TD
CPSC Warns Of Hazards from Heaters and Fireplaces
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reminds consumers to follow safety precautions when purchasing and using electric or fuel-fired heaters and fireplaces.
“Most of the deaths and injuries from heaters and fireplaces happen in the winter months,” said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. “Every home needs working smoke alarms and a carbon monoxide alarm.”
In a recent year, there were about 10,900 residential fires and about 190 deaths associated with portable or fixed space heaters. There were 15,500 fires and 40 deaths associated with fireplaces and chimneys. In addition, an average of about 85 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by heating systems, ranges/ovens and water heaters.
Heaters can cause fires if they are placed too close to flammable materials such as drapes, furniture or bedding. Fireplaces can cause fires if the chimney is cracked, blocked or coated with creosote, or if sparks and embers can reach flammable materials. Fuel-burning appliances can cause carbon monoxide poisoning if they are improperly installed, poorly maintained, have compromised venting systems, or are misused.
Heater safety tips:
- Use a heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by a nationally-recognized testing laboratory. These heaters will have the most up-to-date safety features; older space heaters may not meet the newer safety standards. CPSC worked to upgrade industry standards for electric, kerosene and vented and unvented gas space heaters. Kerosene heaters are required to have an automatic cut-off mechanism that will extinguish the flame if the unit tips over. Most electric heaters also have a similar mechanism to turn the unit off. More guarding around the heating coils of electric heaters and the burner of kerosene heaters also is required to prevent fires. Unvented gas space heaters require oxygen depletion sensors to help prevent carbon monoxide production from inefficient combustion.
- Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep the heater at least three feet from bedding, drapes, furniture and other flammable materials.
- Keep doors open to the rest of the house if you are using an unvented fuel-burning space heater. Make sure your heater meets current safety standards to shut off if oxygen levels fall too low. Make sure your heater is correctly rated for your home. An oversized heater could deplete the available oxygen, causing excess carbon monoxide to be produced. Keep a window in the room open at least one inch to ensure proper ventilation. This helps prevent pollutant build-up and promotes proper combustion. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to provide sufficient combustion air to prevent carbon monoxide production.
- NEVER leave a space heater on when you go to sleep. Never place a space heater close to any sleeping person.
- Turn the space heater off if you leave the area. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
- Have gas and kerosene space heaters inspected annually to ensure proper operation.
- Do not use a kitchen range or oven to heat your house because it could overheat or generate excessive carbon monoxide.
- Be aware that mobile homes require specially-designed heating equipment. Only electric or vented fuel-fired equipment should be used.
- Have a smoke alarm with fresh batteries on each level of the house, inside every bedroom, and outside the bedrooms in each sleeping area. In addition, have a carbon monoxide alarm outside the bedrooms in each separate sleeping area.
Fireplace safety tips:
- Have flues and chimneys inspected before each heating season for leakage and blockage by creosote or debris.
- Open the fireplace damper before lighting the fire and keep it open until the ashes are cool. Never close the damper before going to bed if the ashes are still warm. An open damper will prevent build-up of poisonous gases inside the home, especially while the family is sleeping.
- Never use gasoline, charcoal lighter or other fuel to light or relight a fire because the vapors can explode. Never keep flammable fuels or materials near a fire. Never store flammable liquids in your home.
- Never use charcoal in a fireplace because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Keep a screen or glass enclosure around a fireplace to prevent sparks or embers from igniting flammable materials.
- Recreational fires shall not be conducted within 25 feet of a structure or combustible materials unless contained in a pit or approved container.
- Fires in approved containers are not less than 15 feet from a structure
- Conditions, which could cause a fire to spread within 25 feet of a structure, shall be eliminated prior to ignition.
- Fire rings or containers shall not be bigger than three feet in diameter and the flames not more than two feet in height.
- Recreational fires must be constantly attended until the fire is extinguished. Children are never to be left alone during a recreational fire.
- A minimum of a 4-A rated fire extinguisher or other approved fire extinguishing equipment must be available at all times.
- Only campfire type materials may be burned, garbage, leaves, etc. are not to be burned during recreational fires.
- Follow all burning bans when issued for your area.
- If a recreational fire is causing anyone concern about the safety of property or in any way disrupts normal lifestyle the fire must be extinguished.
- If your recreational fire causes damage (it can be smoke, heat or cinders) in any way to your property or your neighbor’s property, you can be held responsible.
Burning Permits are Not Required.
Facts & Safety Guidelines for Fireworks
“Anything that flies or explodes is illegal in Minnesota. Explosive and aerial fireworks are prohibited for public sale, possession and use.”
Examples of illegal fireworks:
- Bottle rockets
- Missiles Roman
- Mortars and shells
More information about fireworks can be found below and on the State Fire Marshal’s website
- Only persons 18 years of age or older with a photo identification may purchase fireworks.
- Only non-explosive and non-aerial consumer fireworks are legal to be sold or used, fireworks that explode, leave the ground or shoot anything other than sparks into the air are still prohibited.
- No person shall sell or store fireworks within 100 feet of any fuel dispensing apparatus.
- It is unlawful to use, fire or discharge any fireworks along the route of and during any parade, in any place of public assembly, on any public property or in any commercial/industrial zoning district.
- It is unlawful at any time to throw, toss or aim any fireworks at any person, animal, or any other thing or object or used in any manner that may threaten or cause possible harm to life or property.
- Fireworks may not be discharged inside a building or within 15 feet of any building.
- Fireworks may not be discharged in such a manner that may create a nuisance between the hours of 10:00 PM to 7:00 AM.
Fireworks are dangerous and can cause injury or damage when not used correctly.
- Materials, which violate and/or pose a threat to public safety may be confiscated and destroyed. Costs associated with disposal shall be assessed back to the property owner or permit holder.
- Violation of these regulations, city ordinances or state statute may result in revocation of the permit.
- Violations of these fire rules are misdemeanor offences punishable by fines up to $1000 and/or 90 days in jail.
- Read, understand and follow the instructions on each device before lighting.
- Use only with close adult supervision.
- Use fireworks only in a safe place away from anything that could be damaged or burn such as buildings, brush, combustibles, etc.
- Do not mix fireworks with alcohol consumption or other drugs.
- Keep fireworks, lighters and matches away from small children.
- Store fireworks in a cool dry and safe location.
- Do not use fireworks if they have become wet.
- Do not carry fireworks on your person.
- Do not smoke around fireworks.
- Never light fireworks inside another container such as bottles or cans.
- Recommend using eye protection when lighting fireworks.
- Never stand over fireworks when lighting, approach from the side and keep your body away.
- Never attempt to re-light a dud (malfunctioning) firework, stay clear for an extended time and soak the device in water before handling it.
- Never experiment or alter fireworks.
- Do not store fireworks in your vehicle.
- Be respectful of other people’s rights and use fireworks only when they will not be a nuisance.
- Be extremely cautious and always keep safety in mind.
Call the Fire Chief at (320) 234-4211 or the Fire Administrative Officer at (320) 234-5653 if you have any questions or concerns.