HOUSTON – The recent spate of cold weather often sparks a series of house fires as residents try to keep warm.

The Houston Fire Department urges residents to take a little extra precaution to prevent a fire this winter and especially during the holiday season.

“There are a lot of things that come together at this time of year and prompts more fire calls,” said Capt. Jonathan Blankenship, of the Houston Fire Department. “Cold weather is one of them, people put up Christmas trees and lights and they usually do a little more cooking, too.”

Blankenship said keeping fire safety in mind when doing the little things this Christmas can keep the joy in the holidays and not have homeowners cleaning up after a fire.

“A fire this time of year in your home really puts a damper on the Christmas season,” said Blankenship. “Money that could be used for presents, parties and food has to be spent getting your home back in order or finding a new place to live.”

The Houston Fire Department offered this quick list of safety tips for Chickasaw County residents this Christmas.

CHRISTMAS TREE – A live Christmas trees can burn up a room in seconds if a spark or flame hits dry branches.

“Live trees are pretty and smell good, but they need to be kept fresh with water,” said Blankenship. “I urge people to never allows candles, fireplaces, heaters or any kind of open flame – even a cigarette lighter — near a live Christmas tree.”

CANDLES – Candles can bring a special smell and light to the Season of Light, but as with any open flame, extra caution is needed.

“All fires start small,” said Blankenship. “People need to think about what might catch fire around the candle before they set one up. Fires start small and grow big quickly.”

SPACE HEATERS – When the weather turns cold, warm and then cold again, space heater often become the source of a fire.

“What happens is people set the thermostat when it get cold and once it warms up they think the heater is off,” said Blankenship. “They will put clothes or paper on the space heater and once it gets cold again the thermostat kicks on. Then you have a fire.”

Blankenship said it happens every year in Houston and he urged people never to put anything that might catch fire near a space heater.

COOKING – The old saying “a watched pot never boils” can be coupled with “a forgotten pot will catch fire.”

“If you put a pot on the stove, stay with it,” said Blankenship. “Don’t leave the room and certainly don’t leave the house. If you have to leave, turn the stove off.”

EXTENSION CORDS – Christmas lights are beautiful but putting too many on one cord or one outlet is asking for trouble.

“Most outlets are not made to handle more than one or two things plugging in,” said Blankenship. “Christmas light instructions usually say how many can be plugged together. People need to follow the specifications, especially for lights that go on a live tree.”

HEAT SOURCE – It’s tempting to use a stove to heat the kitchen on a cold morning or even a hair dryer in a bathroom.

“It know it may sound silly but you might be surprised at what people use to heat a room,” said Blankenship. “Always use something manufactured to generate heat for a house and keep it in good working order.”

TRASH FIRE – Fall prompts people to burn leaves, Christmas boxes and paper and even old Christmas trees.

“The cold has killed grass and a fire can get away quick,” said Blankenship. “People also need to be very careful what they put in a trash fire.

“Aerosol can will explode and spread a fire quick,” he said. “And please, never use gasoline to start a fire.”

Blankenship said there are many ways to burn down a house and he urged people to just use good common sense.

“Christmas is to be enjoyed at home,” said Blankenship. “A Christmas memory that involves a fire is not one you want to make.”

Blankenship urged anyone with questions about fire safety to call the Houston Fire Department at 456-4190 at any time day or night.