Turkey cooking, Christmas trees, a warm fire in the fireplace or space heater used to warm a chilly room are common this time of year, but so are the increases in structure fires.

"It's that time of year again, and we follow the trend here when the weather starts cools off then the structures fires tend to go up and with that are the injuries and deaths," Tyler Fire Marshal Paul Finley said.

Findley said as the temperatures go down, the reported fires go up. He offered several tips on how to prevent fires and to make sure your family is safe.

Finley said chimneys and fireplaces need to be inspected and cleaned to ensure the heat and smoke leave the home properly and any tree limbs hanging near the chimney should be trimmed back.

"With space heaters you need space, and that space is three feet so there should be no combustibles within that area," he said.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 53,600 reported U.S. home structure fires, with associated losses of 400 civilian deaths, 1,520 civilian injuries, and $893 million in direct property damage in 2011. These fires accounted for 14 percent of all reported home fires.

Space heaters, whether portable or stationary, accounted for one-third (33 percent) of home heating fires and four out of five (81 percent) of home heating fire deaths.

The leading factor contributing to home heating fires (28 percent) was failure to clean, principally creosote from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys.

Finley said care should be taken with turkey fryers and with other cooking and never leave a stove or oven unattended for long periods of time.

With live Christmas trees he said they should be watered and lights are to be unplugged when away from the home.

"Make sure you are not using old Christmas lights with frayed wiring. These things are meant to be replaced every few years and should be used properly," he said.

Finley said homes should have carbon monoxide checks done and smoke alarms should be placed in appropriate areas and batteries checked to make sure the alarms is working properly.

"It's just a good time to make sure evacuations in place and that smoke alarms are in proper areas and are working," he said.


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