Big Bear, Ca, October 7, 2010, 8:00am - Cold weather is upon us and with the change in seasons comes the need to warm our homes and businesses. The following tips can help you stay warm while remaining safe during the winter months: Have a professional check and service your heating system each year. This not only helps to prevent hazardous situations from occurring, but also maintains the efficiency of your heater. When purchasing a portable heater only those that bear the seal of Underwriters Laboratory (UL), Factory Mutual (FM) or another nationally recognized testing laboratory, and never leave a portable heater on when unattended. When using a wood burning stove, fireplace or insert, burn only dry, well-seasoned wood. Never use flammable liquids or excessive amounts of paper to start or accelerate a fire. Keep a metal or glass screen in front of fireplace or stove openings to prevent fire and airborne embers from escaping. Never leave a fire unattended, always extinguish the flames before leaving the house or going to sleep. Always dispose of ashes into a metal container with a tight-fitting lid. Never put ashes in paper bags of cardboard boxes. Ashes can retain heat, making them capable of igniting a fire for several days. Ashes should be thoroughly soaked to ensure they are extinguished. If ashes are disposed of at a public dumpsite, do not put them in the trash receptacle, but in the dumpster marked for ashes only. For additional information on this or other fire/life safety topics, contact your local fire department: Big Bear City Fire Department 585-2362, Big Bear Lake Fire Department 866-7566, Fawnskin Fire Department 866-4878.