Portable and fixed-space heaters, and related equipment, including fireplaces, chimneys, and chimney collectors, can cause many tragedies. The highest fire death rate is from gas-fuelled, fixed-space heaters, not to mention deaths caused by carbon monoxide poisoning from inadequate ventilation.
Only individuals with the knowledge and necessary expertise should maintain gas appliances. Before carrying out any maintenance, the pilot light on gas appliance should be shut off, and the debris at the base of the chimney removed. Oil heating appliances should also be turned off and the debris at the base of the chimney cleared away.
As regards fireplaces and chimneys, the smoke chamber, throat and hearth must be properly brushed and all debris removed. The condition of the system must be carefully checked and all visible defects noted.
You must notify your insurer if you change the heating source in your home. Check with your municipality to find out the regulations and requirements for supplemental heating sources.
- When buying a unit, make sure it carries the seal of an independent testing lab. Have a qualified technician install the unit.
- Wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, chimney connectors, and all other solid-fuelled heating equipment need to be inspected by a professional and cleaned annually.
- Portable kerosene heaters must be refuelled in a well-ventilated area that is free of flame and heat sources, and only when the device has cooled completely. Use the type of kerosene specified by the manufacturer, and never use gasoline instead of kerosene.
- When buying heaters, look for those with automatic shut-off features.
- Be sure any gas-fuelled heating device is installed with proper attention to ventilation, and never put unvented gas space heaters in bedrooms or bathrooms.
Major causes of home-heating fires
- Lack of regular cleaning, leading to creosote build-up, in wood-burning devices.
- Placing combustibles too close to heaters.
- Fuelling errors involving liquid- or gas-fuelled heating equipment.