New Jersey weather can be unpredictable this time of year. Temperatures fluctuate quickly and many homeowners still turn to space heaters and fireplaces for warmth.

However, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, heating fires are the second leading cause of home fires.

The U.S. Fire Administration notes that 74% of fire-related deaths involve fixed and portable space heaters or wood stoves.

Keep your home and family safe this winter with the following tips.

1- Maintain your furnace. The Red Cross recommends you have your furnace, fireplace, chimney and any stoves inspected and professionally cleaned once a year.
2- Keep your furnace filter clean. We recommend inspecting your filter once a month and changing it at least every three.
3- Make sure your furnace exhaust vent is clear of debris.
4- Check your pilot light
to ensure it stays lit and burns properly. A steady, blue flame is what you want to see, a flickering or yellow/orange flame is not. Call a technician right away. Your furnace may be producing carbon monoxide.
5- Never leave a portable heater, stove or fire unattended. It may seem like a hassle to extinguish a fire or go back to turn the space heater off if you are only running to the mailbox or neighbor’s house for a minute. But when it involves fire- a minute can be devastating.
6- Keep all possible sources of fuel at least 3 feet away from a heat source, including your furnace. If your furnace is in a laundry room, do not hang clothes to dry close by.
7- Never use an extension cord with your space heater.