New Jersey Division of Fire Safety Issues

COLD Temperatures Bring the Threat of

fires caused by Portable Heaters

Division of Fire Safety Cautions Residents of Dangers Posed by Portable Heaters

TRENTON, N.J. New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Richard E. Constable, III and Acting State Fire Marshal William Kramer, Jr. caution that while portable heaters are a convenient method to heat homes, especially during cold snaps, it is critical that people follow the recommended safety guidelines during their use.

"This week’s bitter cold temperatures may lead some households to turn to portable heaters to stay warm. This is especially true of families whose home heating system was damaged by Superstorm Sandy," said Commissioner Constable. "Even though portable heaters are small in size, they can cause tremendous damage and loss of life when not used properly. We urge people to recognize the potential danger of these heaters and take appropriate precautions to protect themselves."

Last year, the U.S. Fire Administration issued a special report entitled, "Portable Heater Fires in Residential Buildings (2008-2010)." The report found that while only 2 percent of residential heating fires involved portable heaters, these heaters were involved in 45 percent of all fatal heating fires in residential buildings. Also, an estimated 900 portable heater fires in residential buildings are reported to U.S. fire departments each year, causing an estimated 70 deaths, 150 injuries and $53 million in property loss.

"The consequences of portable heater fires are substantial. But as with most fire incidents, many of these fires could have been prevented if households took the time to learn about how to properly use these heaters," said Acting State Fire Marshal Kramer.

Portable heater safety should include the following steps:

  • Turn the heater off when you leave the room or when you go to bed.

  • Keep young children and pets at least three feet away.

  • Keep combustible material such as bedding, curtains, and clothing three feet away.

  • Plug the heater directly into wall outlets and never into a household extension cord or power strip.

  • Only purchase and use heaters with a "tip over" switch that turns the heater off if it’s knocked over.
    For addtional information, visit to read the "Portable Heater Fires in Residential Buildings (2008-2010)" report.

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 public education and firefighter training programs.