Winter is here and temperatures are dipping outside.

Home owners are using a variety of sources to keep their places warm this winter, but they should also think about putting their safety first. According to the National Protection Fire Association, heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths. Half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the month of December, January, and February.

The US Fire Administration (USFA) statistics reveal home heating fires peaked in January (21 percent) and declined to the lowest points during the summer months for June to August during the years of (2010 to 2012).

Many people will do whatever it takes to stay warm during these cold months, but they should follow these safety tips to decrease any chance of having a home fire.

•    Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys and furnaces professionally inspected once a year

•    Never use a stove or oven to heat the home

•    Never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended

•    Place a space heater on a hard, level, nonflammable surface. Do not put space heaters on rugs or carpets, near bedding or drapes, and keep children and pets away.

•    Be sure to turn off any portable heater when exiting a room or before heading to bed and look for a space heater model that shuts off automatically if the heater were to fall over.

•    When using a fireplace, use a glass or metal screen large enough to keep the sparks or from entering the room

•    Keep all flammable materials such as newspapers, matches, bedding, clothing, carpets and rugs at least three feet away from heat sources such as space heaters, fireplaces and stoves

•    Specific to fuel-laden space heaters or heating equipment, always use the appropriate fuel specified by the manufacturer and appropriately vent to the outside to avoid the potential for CO2 poisoning

•    Test smoke alarms monthly

•    Blow candles out before exiting a room or heading to bed and avoid the use of candles in an area which may be used for sleep purposes. It is recommended to use LED candles in place of actual flame candles

•    If the unthinkable were to occur, make sure everyone in the household is well aware of the applicable emergency escape routes within the home

(Source: NFPA and Red Cross)