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Closely monitor heat sources

When temperatures dip below freezing — as they have this week — many turn to different heat sources to warm their homes.

From fireplaces and central heating systems to electric heaters and heat lamps, North Texas residents are trying to stay warm as temperatures dip as low as the teens.

Unfortunately, during this ongoing wintry weather, we’ve already seen reports of home and garage fires linked to heating lamps and other heat sources.

And that is why we’re suggesting everyone make sure they closely monitor whatever heat source is being used.

It only takes a minute for sparks from a roaring fireplace to catch nearby items ablaze. And unwatched heaters can be just as dangerous if cords are frayed or too close to flammable materials.

Earlier in the week, a heat lamp caused an early morning garage fire resulting in $1,000 worth of damages, said Kenneth Hedges, spokesman for the Denton Fire Department.

The fire was caused by a heat lamp residents had on in the garage try to keep their pipes from freezing because of the extreme cold.

It was completely understandable to use a heat lamp to keep pipes from freezing. But it also serves as a cautionary tale that even the most innocuous uses of heating elements can quickly go awry.

The loss of a home or life is a tragic consequence that no one should have to suffer becuase of unattended heat sources.

So, please, be watchful and careful when you use any heat source.

Check on it often and make sure there is a safe distance between the heat source and anything around it.

Make sure the wires are not frayed and take a look at the plug-in as well. If anything looks amiss, don’t use it.

If you’ve had a heater for a few years and haven’t turned it on in a long while, consider buying a new one. Upgrades are made often on heating elements to make them safer. Many now come with automatic shut-off features when the element gets too hot.

For those with fireplaces, be sure to let ashes cool before taking them out of the fireplace. And do not dispose of them in a flammable container.

Though you’ve likely already used your fireplace this weekend, it’s never too late to get an inspection to make sure the chimney is in good condition and the house hasn’t settled, leaving a gap where burning embers can ignite your home from the inside out.

Sometimes, fireplaces can be used and everything is OK only to catch fire the next time.

And if you ever have any questions about whether something is safe or not, call your local fire department. We’d bet they would be more than happy to prevent a fire rather than respond to one.