The fire that occurred in Bronx, NY on 9 January represents the second most deadly US home fire in nearly 40 years; it comes on the heels of the deadly incident that occurred in Philadelphia just four days prior. Approximately 100 miles away from each other, the two fires and the tragic death tolls incurred place them both in the top 10 residential fires since 1980.
These incidents present a stark contrast to the fire progress that has been documented in recent decades and is reflected in last year’s Fire Safety in the United States report.
US home heating equipment fires
According to news reports, a space heater was responsible for the start of Sunday’s tragic fire. Heating equipment is the second-leading cause of US home fires and the third-leading cause of home fire deaths and injuries.
Overall, US fire departments responded to an estimated average of 48,530 fires involving heating equipment per year in 2014–18, accounting for 14% of all reported home fires and 19% of home fire deaths. These fires resulted in an annual average of 500 civilian deaths, 1,350 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage.
Space heaters are the type of heating equipment most often involved in home heating fires. Between 2014 and 2018, space heaters annually accounted for more than two out of five heating fires and the majority of heating fire deaths (81%) and injuries (80%).
The NFPA US Home Heating Fires report provides more data on when, where, and how home heating fires happen.
The NFPA home heating safety tips sheet offers guidelines for safely heating homes during the winter months. Here are some highlights:
- Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
- Have a three-foot ‘kid-free zone’ around open fires and space heaters.
- Never use your oven to heat your home.
- Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
- Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
- Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
- Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
For more information or to view NFPA codes and standards for free, visit www.nfpa.org