The nonprofit National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) statistics show that heating equipment fires are the second leading cause of fire deaths in American homes, but during the winter, they are the number-one culprit.
According to the NFPA, home heating fires are most commonly caused by inadequate chimney cleaning; placing things that can burn too close to space and portable heaters; fueling errors involving liquid- or gas-fueled heaters; and flaws in the design, installation or use of heating equipment.
The good news is that most of these fires are preventable. It's simply a matter of being aware that these hazards exist, and taking the few steps necessary to avoid them. The NFPA recommends having all home heating systems and chimneys inspected annually and cleaned, if necessary, before the start of each heating season. If you use space or portable heaters, keep anything that can burn, including pets and furniture, at least three feet away. When leaving the room or going to sleep, make sure to turn the heaters off.