MORRISTOWN, NJ - The mild weather is going to stay in the area for a little while longer so its hard to believe that tomorrow, December 22 is the first day of winter. Although the weather has been mild so far, the Red Cross would like to remind everyone that winter is coming and the temperatures will begin to fall. 

Home owners are encouraged to be cautious when using space heaters and other heating sources as temperatures begin to dip.

The American Red Cross responds to nearly 70,000 disasters a year -- one every eight minutes -- and most are home fires. Heating sources are a leading cause of home fire deaths, and fatal home fires increase during the winter months.

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“The greatest disaster threat isn’t hurricanes or flooding, it’s home fires,” said Steven Sarinelli, regional disaster officer, American Red Cross New Jersey Region. “We are encouraging families to take simple steps when using heating equipment to reduce the risk of a home fire.”

Space heaters, fireplaces,  wood and coal stoves can pose a fire hazard when using as a heat source.  According the Red Cross many fatal fires occur in the early morning hours when most people are sleeping.

To reduce the risk of heating related fires, the Red Cross recommends the following tips:

·         All heaters need space. Keep children, pets and items that can burn (paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, carpets, and rugs) at least three feet away from heating equipment.

·         Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended, and use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace. 

·         Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.

·         Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.

·         Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, and chimneys inspected annually by a professional, and cleaned if necessary.

·         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. Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord.

For more information and to access free fire safety tools and resources, visit