FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, December 11, 2014

Division of Fire Safety Offers Portable Heater Safety Tips in Advance of the Winter Heating Season

TRENTON, N.J. - In advance of the winter heating season, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs’ (DCA) Division of Fire Safety is joining local fire departments and fire officials throughout New Jersey in cautioning residents about the use of portable heaters.

"Typically portable heaters are used to replace or augment home heating systems before the truly cold weather sets in," said William Kramer, Jr. Acting Director and State Fire Marshal. "They may also be used in areas of the home where there isn’t heating system coverage. In any case, their use comes with a specific set of cautions."

Statistics gathered nationally and by the Division show the return of cold weather invariably brings a spike in the number of reported residential heating fires:

  • From 2008-2010, an average of 50,100 heating fires in residential buildings occurred in the United States each year and resulted in an annual average of approximately 150 deaths, 575 injuries and $326 million in property loss.

  • Heating was the second leading cause of all residential building fires following cooking.

  • Residential building heating fires peaked in the early evening hours between 5 and 9 p.m. with the highest peak between 6 and 8 p.m. This 4-hour period accounted for 30 percent of all residential building heating fires.

  • Residential building heating fires peaked in January (21 percent) and declined to the lowest point during the summer months from June to August.

  • Confined fires, those fires confined to chimneys, flues or fuel burners, accounted for 87 percent of residential building heating fires.

  • Thirty percent of the non-confined residential building heating fires occurred because the heat source was too close to things that can burn.

Portable heaters come in many shapes and sizes, and include electric, fluid (kerosene) and propane radiant heaters. In all cases radiant propane heaters are used outdoors and command similar precautions as propane grills. Fluid heaters typically fueled with kerosene are illegal in New Jersey and may be banned entirely by your community in all but one- and two-family homes. This should be checked with the local fire department or fire official.

Fluid-Kerosene Heaters

  • Use only the manufacturer recommended fuel source. 

  • Store fuel and always refill after use and cool down outdoors. 

  • Keep heater 3 feet away from anything. 

  • Never move it while in use. 

  • Keep small children and pets away. 

Electrical Heaters

  • Check for independent testing lab approval of the device, (UL, etc.). 

  • See if it has a "tip" switch which will shut off the appliance if it’s moved. 

  • Exposed element heaters should be avoided in favor of sealed heat transfer liquid heaters. 

  • Always place on a flat surface. 

  • Check plug and wire connection before use. 

  • Keep it three feet away from anything including small children and pets. 

The national "Fire Is Everyone’s Fight" web video, which gives specific portable heater safety precautions, can be found at: The New Jersey Division of Fire Safety’s Space heater safety guide can be found at:

The Division of Fire Safety serves as the central fire service agency in the State. The Division is responsible for the development and enforcement of the State Uniform Fire Code, as well as for implementing community risk reduction measures and firefighter training programs. For more information, log on to on the DCA website, or call (609) 633-6106.