Patio heater

Keep Fire Safety in Mind When Using Outdoor Portable Heaters and Other Outdoor Equipment during Cooler Months

Over the past several months, outdoor gatherings have served as an effective way for friends and family to connect while minimizing exposure to the coronavirus. As temperatures drop in many parts of the country, outdoor portable heaters, fire pits, chimineas and campfires are being used to help comfortably extend social activities for as long as reasonably possible. 

While these types of outdoor equipment can continue to be used safely, it's important to remember that they do present potential fire hazards. Fortunately, these risks can be significantly reduced by following basic but important tips and recommendations: 

Use fuel and fire starters properly

  • Carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions for fuel usage, only using the type of fuel recommended by the manufacturer.
  • For firepits, chimineas, or campfires, never use gasoline or other flammable or combustible liquids to start or maintain a fire.
  • For electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire, make sure the extension cord you use is designed for outdoor use.
  • For outdoor propane heaters, store propane tanks in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. 

Never leave equipment unattended

  • Only use outdoor equipment when it's being monitored closely.
  • Turn off outdoor portable outdoor heaters when you leave the area, even if it's just for a few moments.
  • For campfires, fire pits, and chimineas, always have a hose, bucket of water, or shovel and dirt or sand nearby, and make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the area or going to sleep. 

Carefully consider placement of equipment, keeping anything that can burn well away

  • Outdoor portable heaters should be placed on a flat, sturdy surface and in a location where they can't be bumped into or knocked over.
  • Fire pits should be located at least 10 feet away from the home/structure.
  • In areas where campfires are permitted, they must be at least 25 feet away from any structure and anything that can burn. Also make sure to clear away dry leaves and sticks, overhanging low branches and shrubs.
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from any type of equipment in use.
  • Make sure combustible items, such as blankets and outerwear, are at least three feet away from equipment. 

If a fire breaks out, call the fire department

  • If a fire breaks involving any type of outdoor equipment, call the fire department immediately for assistance. 

NOTE: If you're a local official working to ensure that outdoor portable heaters are used properly and safely at restaurants and other businesses in your community, our new “Outdoor Heater Safety” fact sheet provides guidance and recommendations for safe usage, including proper storage of propane tanks, in accordance with NFPA 1, Fire Code.

We also have a wealth of free, downloadable public education resources addressing fire and life safety issues amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Make sure to check them out!

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Susan McKelvey
Communications Manager

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