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As temps fall, risk of house fires increases

The first blast of cold weather is arriving soon, and with it comes the risk of fires from unsafe heating appliances.

Heating equipment is the No. 1 cause of home fire deaths, many of which are preventable. Old extension cords, faulty heaters and portable heaters are all fire hazards. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 25,000 house fires every year are caused by space heaters, resulting in more than 300 deaths. In addition, an estimated 6,000 people receive hospital care for burn injuries after touching the hot surfaces of room heaters.

Below are heating safety tips from the National Fire Protection Association. Do your part to keep yourself — and your family — safe as the weather turns cold.

• Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove or portable space heater.

• Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.

• Never use your oven to heat your home.

• Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.

• Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.

• Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.

• Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.

• Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.

• Test smoke alarms at least once a month.