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Winter Weather Triggers More House Fires

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa With winter storm on the way, people will try almost anything to stay warm. And that means staying indoors and using items that could spark flames. In the past four days, The Department of Public Safety says 54 people died in fires across the nation. In Cedar Rapids, cooking is the leading cause of fires, accounting for 24% of fires last year. The second leading cause is heating fires. Firefighters say six fires started from candles. And that's just one of the concerns from staying warm.

A space heater caused a fire at a home in Dubuque three years ago. No one was hurt, but the danger in the cold is real.

"It's a very scary situation with the potential for a loss of life and loss of all your material possessions it's a very scary thing," said American Red Cross Regional Director Nick Jost.

During the winter, cranking up a dirty furnace could cause a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning if there's a leak. Any level on your carbon monoxide detector in your home is reason to call the fire department. A space heater like this one generates warmth but could also spark a fire.

"People leave them on overnight or people leave them where they can be knocked over by children or pets and that's where you have an issue," said Cedar Rapids Fire Department Spokesperson Greg Buelow.

After a fire, the Red Cross helps families find a place to stay and provides them with clothes and other items to get by.

"If you have children, pets, all those things get affected and even if it is for a few nights or just a few hours, people are very distraught," said Jost.

More than possessions, getting people out of a burning home is the first concern. But only a quarter of house fires the Cedar Rapids Fire Department responded to last year had working smoke detectors.

"The only thing that's going to alert you are luck or a working smoke alarm that makes a loud sound," said Buelow.

Cooking fires happen more often when winter storms roll around and people take refuge in their homes. So now is a good time to check smoke detectors and make sure you have fresh batteries.

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