As the community starts to experience colder temperatures, residents are trying to stay as warm as possible. People are pulling out and dusting off their space heaters, cranking up the heating system and possibly sitting by the fireplace. However, with all of those ways of trying to keep warm comes the danger of possible house fires.

"During the (cold), heating the home is obviously a primary concern of most homeowners, and it's the second leading cause of fires and deaths or injuries in the country," said Oak Grove Volunteer Fire Chief Bill Johnson.

A big concern of Johnson's and one of the most popular ways fires have started in the community is the use of space heaters in the home.

"The biggest concern with those is that they're portable, meaning they can be easily tipped over or stuff can be set next to it (which can start fires)," Johnson said. "You're supposed to keep it at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn."

Johnson explained that in his coverage area in Oak Grove, one of the most frequent causes of fires during the colder months is the improper use of space heaters.

"We see more incidents with space heaters or alternate methods of heating," Johnson said. "That's really the biggest thing we see during the cold months."

In the same vein, Johnson warned residents to not to put anything flammable near heating sources of any kind. He added that people should not use fuel-burning space heaters in a confined space and encouraged everyone to use them outdoors rather than inside.

While you might want to keep your home warm even while your away, it's advised to turn off all heating sources, excluding the home's heating system.

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Johnson said, when trying to keep warm using a fireplace, it's important to make sure everything is working properly and appropriately contained.

"(For anyone that does have a fireplace), they definitely want get their chimneys cleaned and checked to make sure there's no cracks or leaks," he said.

"If they have a gas fireplace, make sure the connections are leak free and the equipment is working properly. If it's a wood burning one, make sure they have screens to stop sparks from flying into the room."

When using any form of gas heating source, homeowners should install a carbon monoxide alarm. An increased amount of carbon monoxide can accumulate in the home, posing a serious threat to anyone inside.

Johnson refers to carbon monoxide as the "invisible killer" because it is odorless, colorless and no one can tell if it has permeated the home until it's too late.

Another tip is to frequently check fire alarms and smoke detectors to be sure both are working properly.

Johnson also emphasized to make sure heating sources are not easily accessible to children.

"Some people will use their oven to try and heat their home, especially if they don't have portable space heaters or their main heat system does not work efficiently," he said, "but you should never use your stove or oven as a heat source."

Additional tips from the Nation Fire Protection Association are:

• Have a qualified service professional annually inspect heating systems, especially in the months prior to temperatures dropping.

• Never use a space heater or any other heating appliance with a damaged cord.

• Never plug space heaters into an extension cord

• Place space heaters only on level, flat services

• Never leave them unattended.

• Turn them off when leaving the room, home or sleeping.

Reach Avery Seeger at 270-887-3236 or aseeger@kentuckynewera.com. Follow him on Twitter @AveryNewEra.

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