Beware the cold that's hitting Massachusetts

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With below-freezing temperatures hitting New England – again -- everyone’s looking for a way to stay warm.

Do know that home fires are the disaster the American Red Cross of Massachusetts most responds to, sending volunteers to the scene of fires at all hours of the day and night to help those affected.

As residents keep warm during these cold days, keep in mind that heating fires are the second leading cause of home fires. Take a minute to review safety tips that will help prevent a fire in your home.

  • Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces.
  • Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended.
  • Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
  • If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes.
  • Keep children and pets away from space heaters. When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over as another safety measure.
  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs. Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year.
  • Visit www.redcross.org/homefires for more information on how to prevent heating fires.