Fall brings new fire hazards, how to protect your family

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10)-- 1.3 million fires were reported in the United States last year, that's one house fire every 90 seconds. National Fire Prevention Week is just over a week away,  but Roanoke City Fire and EMS is stretching out its prevention campaign from one week to the entire month of October.

This year the national message is about changing smoke alarms-- not just the battery, but the entire alarm. Experts say if your alarm is over ten years old, there's a good chance that the sensors no longer work.

If you live in Roanoke City, that's a message you may hear from your children, as fire safety experts will be visiting schools and churches throughout the Star City over the next month.

While prevention is important, it's also just important to be prepared if a fire does happen. That's why they'll also be talking about making a fire safety plan. Experts say it's important to decide as a family what to do fi there is a fire of if your kids wake up and the fire alarm is going off.

"That's where we see people die, especially kids are dying when you don't have a plan," says Tiffany Bradbury with Roanoke City Fire EMS. "THey tend to sleep through smoke alarms and then panic and hide. So we want to make sure we're getting the 'Get out, Stay out' message out there and it's really a family event."

Bradbury says once a fire starts, you have about two minutes to get out of the house before the fire begins to really spread and block you in. That's why she says it's very important to practice that fire escape plan-- just like your children practice their fire drills at school.

As temperatures get cooler, people are finding more and more ways to stay warm-- which also leads to more house fires this time of year.

For many of us, our furnace or heat pumps are about to kick on for the first time in several months. It's important to check those units now, making sure there aren't any leaks or fire risks. It's also a good time to check your chimney. While burning a fire this fall-- experts say we need to keep flammable items away from the fireplace and never go to bed until you're completely sure it's out.

As it gets colder, the dangers inside of the home can be an even bigger issue when people try to get creative about how to stay warm.

"We have fires because of space heater issues, overloaded extension cords, the failure of the heating elements or they use some kind of alternate methods to stay warm," says Roanoke City Fire Chief, David Hoback. "We'll be on the front end and trying to get information out., but you have people who don't heed those warnings."

Those warnings aren't just for inside, but outside too. If you have plans to burn leaves this fall or build a bonfire-- never leave it unattended and keep some water on hand just in case the fire gets too big.

These are all little tips that can go a long way to keep you and your family safe this fall, and keep firefighters safer by lowering the number of calls they have to go out on.