Safely Heat Your Home This Winter

Fallen tree in Northeast Portland

Oregon and SW Washington have seen dangerously cold temperatures, ice, snow, and blustery winds already in 2024. This has led to fallen trees and power outages for thousands of people. Now, more than ever we encourage people to be safe when heating their homes.

Overall, home fires account for most of the 60,000-plus disasters that the Red Cross responds to each year — and home fire responses are 30% higher during cold months than warmer times of year. We’ve responded to over 40 home fires in the Cascades Region in the first two weeks of 2024.

“Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fires in this country,” said Rebecca Marshall, Communications Director at the Red Cross Cascades Region. “But, there are steps people can take to avoid having this happen to them. Help keep your family safe by providing at least three feet of space around all heating equipment, testing your smoke alarms monthly and practicing your two-minute home fire escape plan.”  

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), space heaters are most often responsible for home heating fires. Follow these tips on how to safely heat your home:

  • If you must use a space heater, never leave it unattended. Place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, such as a ceramic tile floor. Don’t place it on rugs and carpets, or near bedding and drapes.
  • Plug space heater power cords directly into outlets — never into an extension cord. Turn the space heater off every time you leave the room or go to sleep. 
  • Keep children, pets and anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment. 
  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Never leave a fire burning in the fireplace unattended. Make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home. Use a glass or metal fire screen to keep embers in the fireplace.
  • Have furnaces, chimneys, fireplaces, wood and coal stoves inspected annually by a professional and cleaned if necessary.

To help protect your family year-round, test your smoke alarms monthly and practice your home fire escape plan until everyone can escape in less than two minutes — the amount of time you may have to get out of a burning home before it’s too late.

Visit for more information, including an escape plan to practice with your family. Download the free Red Cross First Aid app so you’ll know what to do if emergency help is delayed and the free Emergency app for weather alerts, open Red Cross shelter locations and safety steps for different emergencies. Choose whether you want to view the content in English or Spanish with an easy-to-find language selector. Find these and all of the Red Cross apps in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to

About the American Red Cross: 

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood and is the primary blood supplier to 65 hospitals throughout Washington and Oregon; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit or, or follow us on social media.