Help put a freeze on house fires and keep yourself safe this winter

Holiday fire safety graphic via MGN.
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - As is evident from the handful of catastrophic home fires seen this past weekend, low temperatures outside do not equate to low fire risks inside.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, house fires are most prevalent in the winter months, and from 2009 to 2013, heating equipment was involved in an estimated average of 56,000 reported home fires per year, which caused 470 deaths, 1,490 injuries, and more than $1 billion in direct property damage alone.

So how can you stay cozy and fire smart this winter? Check out the tips below. Disaster can strike anytime, but following these guidelines can lessen your chances of seeing your own home go up in flames this holiday season.

Keep things that can catch on fire at least three feet away from heat sources. Anything that can burn, such as books, gloves, hats, shaggy carpets and other items, should all be kept a minimum of three feet away from heat sources including fireplaces, wood stoves, radiators and space heaters.

Watch out for flammable holiday goods. Not the best baker? Make sure you're watching the oven. Did you hang the garland right over the fireplace? Perhaps you should move it to a less dangerous spot. Or maybe you wanted a cozy-feeling living room and decided candles would do the trick? Don't forget to put them out before you leave the house! Be watchful of these things around your home and consider safer alternatives when possible.

Keep generators outside, and at least 10 feet away from windows and doors. They should be placed far from these types of openings to your home, as carbon monoxide can become an issue with this as well.

The last thing you want to do is get smoked out of your own home because you didn't get your chimney properly cleaned. Ashes should also be stored at least 10 feet from your home and other buildings, since they can catch fire so quickly.

Plug only one heating appliance into outlets at a time. There may be two spaces for plugs, but especially with heat sources, there's a high risk of electrical fires when you overload those outlets.

Always have up-to-date smoke detectors and fire extinguishers around your home. Smoke detector batteries should be changed every few months and detectors themselves should be checked monthly if possible. Extinguishers should be located around your home, such as in your kitchen, and in places that can be easily accessed and within quick reach.

Have an emergency plan. Knowing what you might do in a crisis situation, such as a home fire, can help save lives. Make a plan with your family, friends, roommates, whoever, so you all know what to do and where to meet should disaster strike.

For more information, visit the National Fire Protection Association's website here.