State Fire Marshal urges safety following fatal fires

With the recent uptick of tragic home fires and continued cold weather across the state, Indiana State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson urges Hoosiers to keep safety in mind while using alternative heating sources or cooking.

“Home fires occur more often in winter than any other season, and alternative heating sources are one of the leading causes of home fires and fire-related deaths each year,” said Greeson. “Fires caused by alternative heating equipment account for 19 percent of home fire deaths in the United States.”

Hoosiers are encouraged to avoid using space heaters and other alternative heating if possible. Here are some other alternative heat safety tips to follow while cold weather continues in Indiana.

Alternative Heating

  • Keep at least a three-foot perimeter around space heaters at all times.
  • Space heaters should be kept away from loose or flammable objects such as clothing, curtains, bedding and furniture.
  • Only one space heater should be plugged into each electrical outlet. Never overload electrical outlets.
  • Do not leave space heaters on in unoccupied rooms.
  • If it is necessary to purchase a space heater, consider purchasing one with a built-in tilt sensor that automatically shuts off if tipped over.
  • Refuel kerosene space heaters outside the home in a well-ventilated area. Be sure to let them cool down first if they were recently used.
  • Appliances such as ovens should never be used for heating. Doing so can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.


  • Fireplaces should be regularly cleaned and inspected by a certified professional. Gas fireplaces should have proper ventilation, with a working carbon monoxide detector nearby.
  • Use only dry, seasoned firewood to prevent build-up of creosote, which can prevent the chimney from venting properly.
  • Do not close the damper too early with hot ashes in the fireplace. Doing so can force dangerous levels of carbon monoxide into the home.
  • Avoid using flammable liquid to start fires in fireplaces or wood stoves. Always have a fire extinguisher on hand in the event the fire gets out of control.

Remember, fires should always be extinguished and any alternative heating sources turned off before going to bed or leaving the home.

Cooking and cooking equipment are another major cause of home fires. It is estimated that U.S. fire departments respond to more than 150,000 home fires caused by cooking equipment each year.

Kitchen Safety

  • Stay in the kitchen while cooking food. If there is a need to leave the kitchen even for a short time, turn off the stove.
  • Regularly check food that is cooking and use a timer to avoid forgetting items.
  • Keep any flammable objects such as oven mitts, utensils, food packages and towels away from the stovetop.
  • Use the stove’s back burners whenever possible. Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the stove.
  • Clean food and grease from burners and stovetops, and be sure that the oven is clean and free from residue.

More than half of non-fatal home cooking fire injuries occur when residents try to fight the fire themselves. Below are tips for addressing kitchen fires.

  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire.
  • Keep a lid nearby when cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
  • In the event of an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
  • If the fire is too large to address safely, evacuate the home and call 911.

For more information on fire safety, visit, follow Indiana Department of Homeland Security on Facebook at, or @IDHS on Twitter.

SOURCE: News release from Indiana Department of Homeland Security

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