Reps. Clarke, Torres Introduce Federal Legislation on Manufacturing of Space Heaters

Bronx Fire
Property owners of Twin Parks North West are now facing three separate lawsuits over the Jan. 9 fire that killed 17. Photo Lloyd Mitchell

U.S. Reps. Yvette D. Clarke (D-Brooklyn) and Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx) on Feb. 4 introduced federal legislation to address manufacturing issues with space heaters. 

The “Safer Heat Act” (H.R. 6615) comes as a result of the recent Twin Parks NW apartment building fire that took the lives of 17 New Yorkers. It is part of a federal legislative package aimed at solving the underlying issues that caused the deadly fire and preventing future tragedies. 

The legislation 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.

U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke
City Councilman Ritchie Torres
U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres

“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,” said Clarke. “Unfortunately, the current standards around space heaters are only voluntary guidelines that manufacturers can choose to ignore. This must be changed. Our Safer Heat Act will ensure that common-sense safety standards are a requirement, not a recommendation so that we can keep our families safe and prevent these tragic fires from happening again.”

“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,” said Torres.

Torres said current law requirements often fall short of what tenants need to remain warm in their homes. The feeling of freezing in apartments causes tenants to resort to space heaters out of sheer desperation, he said.

“This legislation aims to address the deficiencies in space heater manufacturing and require an automatic shutoff. These cautionary measures would help prevent another fire from devastating communities and help residents feel safe in their homes,” said Torres. 

The “Safer Heat Act” is part of an initial package of federal legislation that will tackle the root causes of the fire including self-closing doors and compliance with fire codes. This included:

The Twin Parks North West Fire Safety Act of 2022 (H.R. 6529): This proposed federal law requires 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. 

The Housing Temperature Safety Act of 2022 (H.R. 6528): This proposed measure would make a federal law requiring the installation of heat sensors in all federally funded or regulated multi-family housing developments. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (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.  

The package also includes 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, and the creation of a publicly available database to easily search housing inspections required by HUD.