Overloaded power strip. The recommendation: "Never do more than three [plugs] in a row."
In December of last year, the City of Houston responded to more than 150 home and apartment fires, which resulted in nearly $2 million dollars in damage.
Houston firefighter Ronnie Harrison says the colder weather means a lot of space heaters are being fired up for the first time.
"Space heater as the name implies, requires space. So nothing within 3 feet that's a combustible. You want to make sure it's not close to curtains and you definitely don't want it close to your Christmas tree this is the holiday season. And if you have a gas space heater, you want to make sure you get that checked by a professional to make sure that the lines have no leaks, because from space heaters, gas space heaters, you will get carbon monoxide."
Carbon monoxide detectors are a must if you use space heaters. Harrison says those detectors are the last line of defense that could save lives.
"And they're recommended to replace them every 5 years."
"That's a carbon monoxide detector. We also have a smoke detector. City ordinance has changed that you should have a smoke detector in every bedroom. We also recommend having one in the hallway preferably, because then the smoke can be detected before it gets to your bedroom. Smoke detectors should be placed on the ceiling or on the wall six inches from the ceiling."
"It does not require changing batteries. This one right here does not."
The fire department provides smoke detectors for those who can't afford them.
The Houston Fire Department shows how dangerous a dried out Christmas Tree can be, how fast they can burn and not only destroy your home, but also lead to possible injury or even death. December 30, 2008 at the HFD Training Academy. This was done in a controlled environment, by professionals and should not be attempted.
Harrison says having a screen over the fireplace prevents embers from escaping to a nearby Christmas tree. Also, when stringing the tree, be sure not to overload a power strip with multiple cords.
"Never do more than three in a row. Check the lights to make they're UL rated, because that means they've been tested. You want to make sure that if you're using lights outside, that you're using lights that's designed to be used outside. And you should never leave your home with your lights on, and when you go to bed, you should turn your lights off. It's best if you get a timer where it automatically shuts itself off and automatically come on. That's the best way to make sure that they're safe."
Cameron Ballantyne with the Houston Red Cross says believe it or not, those hurricane evacuation kits that were never used could come in handy.
"You may want to check it to make sure that, based on the time of year that the appropriate items are gonna be in there. Maybe it’s a sweatshirt instead of a t-shirt and shorts, based on what's happening throughout the year. But the kit is gonna be similar to what you would do to any type of disaster."
He says to keep your exits clear from a tree, decorations or other objects that could impede an escape from danger.
For more safety recommendations, visit the HFD website.