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Stay safe in winter

This week has seen bitterly cold temperatures hit the region, bringing with them all the problems associated with them, from poorly-starting cars to freezing water lines.

However, in addition to these nuisances, the cold can also lead to an increase in house fires in the winter. And with it only the first week of January, the danger will remain for a few months more.

According to the U.S. Fire Adminstration, 890 Americans die in winter fires each year, with blazes also causing $2 billion in property loss annually.

While winter fires account for only 8 percent of fires year-round, they claim nearly a third of all lives lost in fires annually.

Cooking is the leading cause of fires in winter, but safety issues, brought on by the cold are a major factor.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has provided tips to keep your home safe in the winter months:

– Portable heating devices, such as space heaters, should be at least three feet away from anything combustible, including paper, drapery,  bedding and clothing.

– Space heaters should be monitored and should always be turned off when you leave a home and before  bedtime.

– Cords on electric heaters should be inspected and be in good shape and free of frays and breaks.

– With wood burning stoves, follow manufacturers’ recommendations for proper installation, use and maintenance.

– Make sure stoves are properly ventilated and test all other appliances, such as bathroom fans, stovetop venting and HVAC units, to ensure that they do not interfere with proper stove venting.

– Maintain a clearance around stoves, flue pipes and floors, according to manufacturers’ recommendations.