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Stay safe in cold weather

The weather seems to be turning colder earlier this season. The high won’t even get above 50 this Friday, and it’s expected to be windy. Wednesday next week will be even worse, with a high around 40.

Whether you suspect this is caused by climate change, think it’s just a fluke or have already accused your neighbors of conjuring up the cold weather by having their Christmas decorations out already, the weather will definitely be unseasonably cold in the coming days and weeks.

Unfortunately, that also means it’s time for house fires to increase. Heating is the second leading cause of U.S. home fires (behind cooking). And while December, January and February are the peak months for heating fires — for obvious reasons — cold weather, rather than what the calendar says, is what really poses the threat.

The National Fire Protection Association says space heaters are the type of heating equipment most often involved in home heating fires, causing more than 40 percent of them and being among the leading causes of deaths, injuries and property damage from fires. The leading factor in home heating fire deaths was heating equipment, including space heaters and fireplaces, too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress or bedding.

To keep yourself and your family, your home and local firefighters safe during this upcoming cold weather, follow these tips:

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet from any heat source.
  • Plug only one heat-producing appliance, such as a space heater, into an electrical outlet at a time.
  • Have a qualified professional clean and inspect your chimney and vents every year.
  • Store cooled ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep it outside at least 10 feet from your home and other nearby buildings.
  • Keep portable generators outside, away from windows, and as far away as possible from your home.
  • Install and test carbon monoxide alarms at least once a month.