Fact sheet on Rural Fire Safety and Prevention


Every year fire claims the lives of 4,000 Americans, injures tens of thousands, and causes billions of dollars worth of damage. People living in rural areas are more than twice as expected to die in a fire than those living in mid-sized cities or suburban areas. The misuse of wood stoves, portable space heaters and kerosene heaters are especially common risks in rural

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) believes urban fire problems can be reduced by teaching people how to be aware of the hazards. By following some of the outlined precautionary steps, individuals can greatly decrease their chances of becoming a fire casualty.

Wood Stoves

Wood stoves produce over 9,000 residential fires every year. Cautiously follow the manufacturer's installation and maintenance instructions. Look for solid construction, such as plate steel or cast iron metal. Check for cracks and inspect legs, hinges and door seals for smooth joints and seams. Use only seasoned wood for fuel, not green wood, artificial logs, or trash. Examine and clean your pipes and chimneys annually and check monthly for damage or obstructions. Be sure to keep flammable objects at least three feet away from your wood stove.

Electric Space Heaters

Buy only heaters with the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) safety listing. Check to make sure it has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over. Heaters are not dryers or tables; don't dry clothes or store objects on top of your heater. Space heaters need space; keep combustibles at least three feet away from each heater. Always unplug your electric space heater when not in use.

Kerosene Heaters: Buy only UL-approved heaters and check with your local fire department on the legality of kerosene heater use in your community. Never fill your heater with gasoline or camp stove fuel; both flare-up easily. Only use crystal clear K-1 kerosene. Never overfill any portable heater. Use the kerosene heater in a well ventilated room.


Fireplaces frequently build up creosote in their chimneys. They need to be cleaned out regularly and chimneys should be inspected for obstructions and cracks to prevent deadly chimney and roof fires. Check to make sure the damper is open before starting any fire. Never burn trash, paper or green wood in your fireplace. These materials cause heavy creosote buildup and are difficult to control. Use a screen heavy enough to stop rolling logs and big enough to cover the entire opening of the fireplace to catch flying sparks. Don't wear loose-fitting clothes near any open flame. Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed. Store cooled ashes in a tightly sealed metal container outside the home.