Winter is in full swing, bringing with it freezing temperatures and snow. As New Yorkers turn on their heat this winter and curl up next to their fireplaces, the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) wants to remind everyone to follow some simple tips when preparing their homes for winter.

Space heaters and fireplaces can increase the risk of a home fire when used improperly. Homeowners should check that all their heating equipment is functioning properly and double check that all their carbon monoxide and smoke detectors have fresh batteries.

“It is extremely important to heat your home safely this winter,” said FASNY President Steven Klein. “During these cold upcoming months, we respond to an increased number of fires, many caused by carelessly operated heating equipment. There are simple tips to follow that can prevent a tragedy from occurring. For example, plugging a space heater into an extension cord can easily cause a tragic fire. Everyone should check their carbon monoxide and smoke detectors at least once a month.”

Heating is one of the leading causes of fires in the United States, and half of all home heating fires occur in December, January, and February, according to data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Local fire departments responded to an estimated average of 52,050 fires involving heating equipment each year in 2012-2016. As of this week, New York State leads the nation in fire deaths for this year with 112 deaths.

 Here are some home heating tips from FASNY and the NFPA:

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three-feet away from heating equipment.
  • 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.