The Twin Parks building in the Bronx where a fatal fire caused by a space heater killed 17 residents in January. Photo: Google Maps.

New laws governing the safety of space heaters have been introduced in the federal government following the fatal Twin Parks fire in the Bronx that took 17 lives.

Reps. Yvette Clarke (NY-09) and Ritchie Torres (NY-15) introduced the Safer Heat Act, a legislative package aimed at solving the underlying issues that caused the fire and preventing future tragedies. 

If passed, the new laws would require space heaters to have an automatic shutoff and to require the Commission on Consumer Product Safety to establish mandatory safety standards for the manufacturing of space heaters.

Clarke said the current standards around space heaters were only voluntary guidelines that manufacturers could choose to ignore. “This must be changed,” she said, adding that the act would ensure common-sense safety standards were a requirement, not a recommendation.

“Only weeks ago, tragedy struck the heart of the Bronx when a defective space heater led to a fire that killed 17 members of our New York family and seriously injured dozens more.

“This horrible incident, like so many others caused by space heaters every year, could have been prevented if proper safety standards had simply been put in place.”

Torres added that what the current laws require fell short of what tenants needed to remain warm in their homes, and freezing apartments led tenants to use space heaters “out of sheer desperation.” He said the new cautionary measures would help prevent another fire from devastating communities and would help residents feel safe in their homes. 

“It is no accident that the four worst fires in New York City’s history in the last thirty years have all been in the Bronx.

“The tragedy at Twin Parks North West only underscores that we must take federal action to ensure tenants have safe and affordable homes no matter their ZIP code.”

The elected officials said the Safer Heat Act was part of an initial slate of federal legislation that would tackle the root causes of the fire, including self-closing doors and compliance with fire codes.

The proposed laws include:

  • Twin Parks North West Fire Safety Act of 2022 (H.R. 6529)
    • A federal law requiring federally funded or regulated multi-family developments to have self-closing doors (on apartment units, stairwells, etc.) and requiring owners and operators to inspect and certify that the doors are properly functioning and self-closing. 
  • Housing Temperature Safety Act of 2022 (H.R. 6528)
    • A federal law requiring the installation of heat sensors in all federally funded or regulated multi-family housing developments. HUD, as well as the state and local housing administrator, shall receive real-time reports that flag when the level of heating in a unit is out of compliance with housing inspections.  
  • Compliance With all State and Local Building, Fire and Housing Codes
    • A federal law clarifying that federally funded or regulated multi-family housing developments are required to comply with state and local building, fire, and housing codes. 
  • Housing Inspection Transparency
    • A federal law to create a publicly available database to easily search housing inspections required by HUD.

Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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