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Arctic blast: How to properly use a space heater, fireplace during hard freeze

Fires and carbon monoxide poisoning have claimed lives during freezes in the past.

HOUSTON — With temps dropping below freezing in the coming days, the main thing on firefighters' minds is heat safety.

It has probably been longer than a year since a lot of Texans had to pull out their space heaters and we all know too well that space heaters could lead to house fires if they are not used correctly.  

“We want people to get through this holiday safe, and alive,” said Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie Christensen. 

She advises residents to use the three-foot rule. That means keeping a three-foot perimeter around space heaters and fireplaces. You'll especially want to keep these devices clear of objects and pets.

If it has been a while since you’ve used your fireplace, you’ll want to make sure it’s good to go before you light a match.

“If you haven’t had that thing cleaned out," Christensen said. “Pull out all the brush. Even the dust that’s inside there can start a fire just by it floating out.”

There’s also something else to keep in mind. In addition to the increased fire hazards during a hard freeze, there’s also a rise in the number of cases of carbon monoxide poisoning.

“That carbon monoxide is a silent killer,” Christensen said. “And most of our homes aren’t built with detectors because we don’t have natural fuel-fired appliances.”

Over the years, the odorless gas has been the cause of many deaths in the Houston area.

Know that gas-powered generators should never be used indoors or even too close to a home. Also, grills and barbecue pits should never be used as a method to keep warm inside a house.

If the power happens to go out, don’t try to keep warm or try to charge your phone by sitting in your car while it’s running in your garage. That can be deadly, too.

This will be the coldest Christmas the Houston area has seen in about 30 years, but luckily, this freeze is different than others in the past.

You don’t have to stay home. You can go for a drive if you need to because the roads are not expected to be impacted by snow or ice.

Below is a list of warming centers opening across Houston for those looking to escape the frigid temperatures:

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