NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – The cold weather has many residents using their wood stoves or plugging in space heaters for the first time this year.

You may be thinking it’s time to use the fireplace, especially after taking a look at your energy bill this winter. But before you do, local fire departments are reminding you to keep warm and keep safe.

The Northampton Fire Department is alerting homeowners to practice safety when heating their homes. If you have a space heater, officials urge you not to plug them into extension cords or power strips. The high current flow can overheat the cord and cause a fire. Space heaters should never be left unattended or running while you are sleeping.

Lieutenant Tony Spear of the West Springfield Fire Department said, “So you want to make sure they’re out of high-traffic areas especially if there are children around, and never leave them unattended. As far as when you’re plugging in and powering the heater, make sure you’re plugging it directly into the wall as directed in the instructions. Never use a power strip or surge protector.”

Here are some helpful tips from the State Fire Marshal to consider:

Space heater fire safety tips:

  • When buying a heater, look for one that has been tested and labeled by a nationally recognized testing company, such as Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL).
  • Keep the heater 3-feet away from drapes, furniture, or other flammable materials.
  • Place the heater on a level surface away from areas where someone might bump into it and knock it over.
  • Avoid using extension cords. If you must use an extension cord, make sure it is a heavy-duty cord marked with a power rating at least as high as that on the label of the heater itself.
  • Never leave a space heater unattended or running while you sleep.
  • Supervise children and pets when a space heater is in use.
  • Keep electric heaters away from water. Never use them near a sink or in the bathroom.
  • The sale and use of unvented kerosene heaters are illegal in Massachusetts.

Don’t forget, no matter how you heat your home, always make sure that you have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms on every level.

Proper use of a wood stove

  • Burn only dry, well-season hardwood to reduce creosote accumulation. Creosote build-up is the cause of most chimney fires in homes.
  • Don’t use a flammable liquid to start a fire
  • Do not leave your children unattended near the stove.
  • Check to make sure the damper is open before starting a fire.
  • Install and maintain smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms in your home.
  • Use a metal bucket to clean the ashes from a stove after giving it a proper amount of time to cool down.