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As temps dip, caution urged with heating

It’s been busy for the past couple of weeks for local fire departments, and firemen want locals to take precautions.

At least three homes burned last week, and there were several fire calls over the holiday weekend. For the month of November and December there had been 16 structure calls through Friday, including calls for fires or smoke in a residence.

Fires are more likely to start in the winter and statistics prove that. An average of 890 people die in winter home fires in the United States each year.

December, January and February are peak months for home fires, specifically due to heating.

Carbon Monoxide, candles, electrical, holiday cooking, fireworks, winter storms and Christmas decorations are all things that can lead to a house fire.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, 55 percent of home fires are started by decorative candles.

Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed closely by Christmas Day.

Another thing that can lead to a house fire is unconventional heating methods.

“The safest way is to use conventional heating methods,” Capt. Eric Samuel of the Andalusia Fire Department said.

“I’ve seen people with pine straw used as insulation, that’s almost fueling a fire if it were to ever happen,” he said. “I’ve seen people put pine straw in an oven to try and warm their houses. Propane or gas heaters are also unconventional and can be dangerous.”

Don’t leave the house with space heaters plugged up, Samuel said.

“It’s important to keep methods of heat away from anything flammable,” Brandon Holland, the vice president of the Covington County Fire Association said.

“Make sure that you’re using power strips, surge protectors and heaters that are UL rated.”

It’s also important to have a fire extinguisher, Samuel said.

“We encourage that when you leave your house, unplug the space heaters and make sure there are not multiple space heaters on one power strip,” Holland said.

There’s always a risk of a fire if there is anything kept flammable near heaters.

Don’t try to fight the fire, Holland said.

“Call if there’s any suspicion something might be on fire,” he said.

Another tip to get into the habit of is closing doors.

“Keeping your doors closed will actually reduce the damage in the event of a fire. It will greatly reduce the risk of spreading fire and slows down heat and smoke spread,” Holland said.

To learn more about fire safety, go to http://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/By-topic/Safety-in-the-home.