State Fire Marshal Offers Tips To Keep Safe And Warm When Power Out

Alternative heating sources increase the risk of fire

Staff Report

RALEIGH, NC –  Well, WNC has just experienced it’s first good winter weather that left tens of thousands without power. The event prompted North Carolina Fire Marshal and Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey to issue caution when trying to heat homes – especially in the event power is out and residents revert to alternative heating sources.

According to the N.C. Office of State Fire Marshal, there have been several fires across the state during this storm believed to be caused by heating sources. None of those fires were reported in the Tribune/Leaders’ coverage area.

In 2018, 127 North Carolinians died as a result of fire. Commissioner Causey asks residents to make sure their fire and carbon monoxide alarms are working, heed the following safety precautions to help minimize the risk of house fires and have an escape plan in place in case of a fire ignites.

Space Heaters

  • Keep anything that can burn, such as bedding, clothing and curtains, at least 3 feet away from the heater.
  • Make sure the heater has an automatic shut-off, so if it tips over, it shuts off.
  • Turn heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.
  • Plug portable heaters directly into outlets and never into an extension cord or power strip.
  • Only use portable heaters from a recognized testing laboratory.


  • Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace to prevent embers or sparks jumping out.
  • Do not burn paper in your fireplace.
  • Put the fire out before you go to sleep or leave your home.
  • Put ashes in a metal container with a lid, outside, at least 3 feet from your home.

Wood Stove

  • Make sure your wood stove is 3 feet from anything that can burn.
  • Do not burn paper in your wood stove. Put the fire out before you go to sleep or leave your home.
  • Have your chimney inspected and cleaned each year by a professional.


  • Have your furnace inspected each year.
  • Keep anything that can burn away from the furnace.

Kerosene Heater

  • Only use kerosene heaters from a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Make sure the heater has an automatic shut-off, so if it tips over, it shuts off.
  • Refuel your cooled heater outside.

During colder weather, people tend to use fuel-burning appliances more often. Carbon monoxide is called the “invisible killer,” as it is an odorless and colorless gas produced by the incomplete combustion of any fossil fuel; wood, oil, gas or coal.

The USFA recommends following these tips:

  • Install and maintain CO alarms inside your home to provide early warning of CO.
  • Install CO alarms in a central location outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of your home.
  • Use portable generators outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from all doors, windows and vents.
  • Make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow and other debris.
  • Remove vehicles from the garage immediately after starting.

For more information, contact Office of the State Fire Marshal at 855.408.1212.

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