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INDIANAPOLIS — Each year, fire departments and the American Red Cross report seeing an increase in house fires during the start of the winter months. 

Causes stem from cooking accidents, as well as people looking for alternative ways to heat their homes. Thousands are injured, and lives are lost across the country from house fires. 

American Red Cross Regional Communication Director Lamar Holliday says one of the biggest causes they see is unattended space heaters. People accidentally leave them on and fall asleep or leave them on and leave the house.

 The local American Red Cross says this year they’ve responded to about 1,300 house fires since January and helped more than 5,800 families. They recommend every house have smoke detectors, at least one on every level of the home, and one in each room where a person sleeps if possible. 

“What we want people to understand is that home fires claim seven lives every single day, but a working smoke alarm cuts that rate of death in half,” said Holliday. 

If you don’t have a working smoke detector on each level of your home, you can contact the American Red Cross for help getting one installed. 

Bargersville Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Mike Pruitt also agreed homes should have smoke detectors. He said this year they are concerned they could see even more of an increase. 

“It’s kind of like the perfect storm with the holidays and cold weather kind of coming together. And people are staying inside more than they normally would. COVID has played into that a little bit,” said Pruitt. 

When it comes to space heaters, Pruitt says it’s important to never leave them unattended and make sure they aren’t near anything combustible that can easily catch on fire, like blankets or paper. 

For families using alternative heat sources due to financial struggles, Pruitt said many communities offer assistance for heating. 

When there is a house fire, families can lose everything. The American Red Cross responds to provide them with things to meet their immediate basic needs. 

“When we have people who donate to the Red Cross when those fires happen, again we respond right away, and we’re able to provide them financial assistance for their immediate needs. It is for most families a long road to recovery, but just that little help goes a long way,” said Holliday. 

You can click here to donate to the American Red Cross. 

Pruitt also mentioned holiday decorations as a cause for some fires and injuries. He’s warning people to be careful this year. Since more people are home due to COVID-19, more people are decorating.  

“We should always inspect our electrical cords we’re going to use. We’ve all seen the Griswald family and how he overloads outlets,” said Pruitt. “That’s very possible to do that by plugging in too many Christmas lights and overwhelming that outlet can cause a fire.” 

He says also use caution when hanging decorations on top of your house or other tall heights.