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How to Deal With a Space Heater Fire: 7 Critical Steps

When the temperature drops outside, thermostats go up inside. Furnace fires are always a concern this time of year, but space heaters are responsible for more than 40% of home heating fires.

It’s a disturbing statistic.

ServiceMaster of Lake Shore helps Chicago homeowners deal with the aftermath of space heater fires every winter. We hope it never happens to you.

Read on for everything you need to know about managing fire damage caused by space heaters.

What to Do if Your Space Heater Catches Fire

According to recent space heater fire statistics, the appliances are more likely to start a house fire than any other type of heating equipment. We want you to be prepared.

If your space heater starts a fire, follow these seven steps.

1. Shut Off the Power Supply

Immediately unplug the heater. If you can’t reach the electrical outlet, turn off the unit with its control switch, and then disconnect its cord from the outlet.

Power Safety Tip: Call out to everyone in the house, and alert them to the emergency.

2. Leave the Space Heater in Place

Don’t try to move the heater. This can cause the flames to ignite surrounding materials and quickly spread through the room. Leave it where it is, and immediately start extinguishing the fire.

Power Safety Tip: Pay attention to any flammables around the space heater, including rugs, drapes and furniture.

3. Extinguish the Flames

Put out the fire with an extinguisher by aiming it at the base of the flames. Use a back-and-forth sweeping motion until the fire is completely out.

Power Safety Tip: Trying to put out a space heater fire with water can result in electrocution or an explosion.

4. Be Ready to Evacuate

If you have any doubts about putting out the fire by yourself, don’t take the risk. Evacuate the house immediately. Close doors as you leave. Don’t try to take anything with you.

Power Safety Tip: Practice your home fire evacuation plan with family fire drills several times a year.

5. Stay Calm and Call 911

Call 911, and give the dispatcher an overview of the situation. Clearly state your name, address and phone number. Stay on the line until told otherwise. 

Power Safety Tip: If you left your phone inside, don’t risk trying to retrieve it. Borrow a phone from a neighbor.

6. Follow Firefighters’ Instructions

Give firefighters room to do their work. Stand back, and stay away from their equipment. Follow any instructions they might give you. Wait for the all clear before reentering your fire-damaged home.

Power Safety Tip: A fire contaminates interiors with smoke and soot particles, so consider temporarily relocating.

7. Start the Recovery Process

First, contact your homeowners insurance agent. Explain how the house was damaged by the space heater fire, and arrange for an adjuster’s inspection as soon as possible.

Next, call a fire damage restoration company. Their teams can start interior cleanup and remediation right away. You should also arrange for a licensed electrician to inspect your home’s electrical system.

Power Safety Tip: Fire damage can compromise the structural integrity of walls, floors and ceilings, so be very careful when you finally reenter your home.

How to Manage Space Heater Fire Damage

space heater fire damage

There are several things you can do to address the immediate damage from a space heater fire, but only after first responders have given the all clear.

  • If the weather cooperates, start circulating fresh air through the house by opening windows.
  • Unplug appliances until a licensed electrician confirms that your home’s electrical system is safe.
  • Document your insurance claim by taking pictures of fire-damaged interiors and belongings.
  • Don’t throw away anything until your restoration teams determine what can and cannot be salvaged.
  • Do assume all fresh and packaged foods were contaminated by the fire and must be thrown away.

Space Heater Fire Prevention Tips

  • When purchasing a space heater, look for safety certification from an independent testing laboratory.
  • Reduce the chances of a space heater catching fire by reading the owner’s manual and following all instructions.
  • Never operate the heater within 3 feet of flammable materials, such as bedding, drapes and furniture.
  • Don’t overload the unit’s power capacity by plugging it into a power strip or outlet tap.
  • Designate one wall outlet for heater use only, and check its receptacle regularly for any signs of damage.
  • Never leave the space heater unattended, but do leave it unplugged when not in use.
  • Keep the heater on the floor in an area away from children, pets and heavy foot traffic.
  • Routinely check the unit for hazards, such as loose heating elements or a frayed cord.
  • Don’t operate the space heater in a workshop or garage used to store combustible liquids.

If a Space Heater Fire Damages Your Home in Chicago, Let Us Help.

space heater fire damage cleanup

We want you to stay safe and warm this winter, so please keep a close eye on the space heater. 

If you’re in the Chicago area and facing any type of fire damage, let us help you get things back to normal.

ServiceMaster of Lake Shore is standing by 24/7 with professional restoration services for homes and businesses.

Our teams are ready for your call: 312-707-8597.

Helpful Resources for Homeowners

Home Fire Recovery – Red Cross

Space Heater Ratings – Consumer Reports


What causes space heater fires?

Overheating is the most common cause of space heater fires. This dangerous malfunction is usually due to old or damaged heater components or faulty wiring. Space heaters can also ignite fires when operating too close to flammable materials or combustible liquids.

How common are space heater fires?

Space heaters are the source of more than two out of every five home fires started by heating equipment. They also account for more than 50% of property damages resulting from home heating fires.

Are space heaters safe?

With proper use and regular maintenance, space heaters are usually a safe choice for keeping small areas warm. However, it’s important to understand that no type of heating equipment is 100% safe. Please follow all guidelines for safely operating the space heaters in your home.