Example of a baseboard heater fire.

Recently, we had another residential fire in the Roseburg area caused by the baseboard heater in a bedroom. Clothing and other flammable materials had been piled adjacent to the heater and with the cool nights the heaters in the home had automatically kicked on which in turn ignited the materials. Thankfully no one was hurt but of course there was a good deal of damage. This type of fire is unfortunately not uncommon but is easily avoided. Firstly, do not place anything flammable on or near any heat source. Secondly, be aware of the thermostat settings so when the nighttime temperatures do dip you are aware the heat may be coming on. Finally just make yourself aware of fire issues in regards to heating in general. This recent fire in the Roseburg area prompted us to do a little research on fires and heating systems. The following information was taken from a series of reports put out by FEMA. 

Findings:
-An estimated 54,500 heating fires occur each year in the United States.
-Heating is the second leading cause of all residential building fires following cooking.
-Residential building heating fires peak in January and February; this peak accounts for 34% of fires.
-Confined heating fires, those fires confined to chimneys, fuels, fuel boxes, or boilers, account for 87% of residential building heating fires.
31% of the non-confined residential building heating fires occur because the heating source is too close to combustibles.
Residential building heating fires peak in the early evening hours between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. with the highest peak between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. This four-hour period accounts for 30% of all residential building heating fires.
-The percentage of residential building heating fires declines to the lowest point during the summer months from June to August. Heating fires during these months tend to be confined fuel burner/boiler malfunction fires (64%) or involve water heaters (10%). 

The term heating fires applies to those fires that are caused by central heating units, fixed or portable local heating units, fireplaces, heating stoves, chimneys and water heaters. 

Building fires consist of two major categories of incidents: fires that are confined to specific types of equipment or objects (confined fires) and those that are not (non-confined fires). Confined building fires are small fire incidents that are limited in scope, confined to noncombustible containers, rarely result in serious injury or large content losses and are expected to have no significant accompanying property losses due to flame damage. 

One and two family residences are disproportionately represented in residential heating fires. Heating fires in one and two family residences account for 81% of residential heating fires – yet one and two family residences represent only 66% of residential fires. Multifamily dwellings account for an additional 15% of these heating fires. Multifamily dwellings (apartments, condominiums and the like) often have professionally maintained heating systems which may account for these differences in fire incidence. 

The “misuse of material or product” is the leading category contributing (39%) to the ignition of non-confined residential heating fires. “Mechanical failure or malfunction” is the second leading category in 23% of residential heating fires and “operational deficiency” is the third leading category in 18% of the fires. These three categories play a role in 79% of non-confined residential heating fires. 

Heat source too close to combustibles (31%) is, by far, the leading specific factor contributing to ignition. Heat source too close to combustibles is more than twice the second leading factor contributing to ignition, miscellaneous mechanical failure/ malfunction (13%). 

Conclusion
Safer heating equipment and public awareness of heating fire prevention have substantially decreased the incidence of residential heating fires. Chimney maintenance is now more often the norm rather than the exception. Although the numbers of these fires have decreased, residential building heating fires still affect neighborhoods and communities and therefore, continue to receive attention within local fire departments and State agencies. This attention is largely because residential building heating fires account for and cause injuries and deaths as well as property damage. Many of these fires can be prevented through proper maintenance and proper use of heating equipment. 

If you would like a complete copy of this report, please go to www.usfa.dhs.gov/statistics/reports/index.shtm

If you have baseboard heat and would like to look into a different, safer, more efficient heating system or would like to get your existing system serviced, please contact us at one of out three offices.

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