As the temperatures drop during the winter months, most of us head indoors to warm up—but, in doing so, our local fire agencies note that turning up the heat can increase the risk of home heating fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly half of all home-heating fires occur during the winter months. On average, NFPA research shows that heating equipment is involved in roughly 70,000 reported U.S. home structure fires, with associated loss of more than 600 civilian deaths, almost 1,600 civilian injuries, and more than one billion dollars in direct property damage. According to Big Bear Lake Fire Chief Rod Ballard, “These numbers are concerning, especially as these fires are preventable. We can reduce the number of home heating fires in our community by taking some simple precautions and using heating equipment properly.” Some of these suggestions, as offered by the NFPA and the Big Bear Lake Fire Protection District, are as follows: use a sturdy fireplace screen to keep sparks from flying into the room; keep rugs and other combustible materials off of, and at least three feet from, floor furnaces; space heaters need space, so keep combustibles including paper, bedding and furniture at least three feet away; turn portable heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room; never plug portable heaters into an extension cord or multi-plug adapter; install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home (and replace smoke alarm batteries each year); and never use an oven to heat your home. When disposing of ashes, first allow them to cool, then place in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid, and keep at least 10 feet from the home and other combustible materials; never place ashes in a box or bag. Also, do not burn Christmas trees in a fireplace or wood stove, as they burn too fast and could be explosive. For questions regarding heating safety, contact your local fire department: Big Bear City Fire at 585-2362, Big Bear Lake Fire at 866-7566, San Bernardino County Fire in Fawnskin at 866-4878 or Baldwin Lake at 584-9911.