Firefighters give tips to prevent house fires as colder weather approaches

Taney County, MO. -- Colder weather is in the forecast. That means many people will be cranking up the heat. However, firefighters say homeowners should use caution, as many house fires are started from improper maintenance of furnaces or improper use of heaters.

As the weather cools down, some items in a hardware store get hot.

"The first thing they were coming in for was gloves," Branson Ace Hardware Owner Allen Koening said. "Of course, the houses cool down within a day or two and now they need space heaters."

He says electric heaters can be handy.

"There are smaller ones that will just heat a bathroom, or there are bigger ones," Koening said.

However, before you switch it on, Western Taney County Fire Chief Chris Berndt says take note of some safety tips.

"This space heater even says do not cover, so don't lay any blankets or anything on it and when it tips over it needs to shut up," Chief Berndt said.

He says keep the heater three-feet from anything that could catch fire and watch what you're plugging it into.

"1500 watt space heater requires about 14 or 15 amps. Do not plug it into a power strip or an extension cord, it really needs to go directly into the outlet," Chief Berndt said.

However, Chief Berndt says small heaters certainly aren't the only cause of winter house fires. Proper furnace maintenance is essential to safety.

"Replace filters on a regular basis," Chief Berndt said.

Dirty filters can cause furnace fires that can then spread through the rest of the house.

"With the equipment working properly, that reduces any chance of a fire hazard," Chief Berndt said.

He says these simple tips can help ensure that fire crews aren't called to your house, as we try to stay warm this season.

"You can check with every fire department around. This happens on a regular basis. The more preventative maintenance that you do and the more you use the equipment properly, you're going to really reduce the chance of a fire in your house," Chief Berndt said.

Chief Berndt also says now is the time to make sure you have working smoke alarms in your home. It's also important to have a working carbon monoxide detector.