COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — The recent cold front that has made its way to Columbus is forcing some folks to turn on their heaters. Columbus Fire and EMS is warning against the dangers that come along with it.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says “local fire departments responded to an estimated average of over 44,210 fires involving heating equipment per year from 2016-2020.”

Local officials say it’s important to keep at least a three-foot radius clear of combustibles around your portable heater or fireplace to avoid starting a fire. The Columbus Fire and EMS Division Chief and Fire Marshall says heating is one of the top five causes of fires across the nation.

I always tell people, look, we’re using equipment that we haven’t used all year. It’s starting to get colder. So, we’re turning on our heaters. We’re bringing out our portable heaters. So if you’re using portable heaters, I always recommend that you use a newer model.

John Shull, Columbus Fire and EMS Division Chief and Fire Marshal

Chief Shull recommends purchasing a new portable heater every three to four years and urges everyone to never connect those heaters to an extension cord, as it can be hazardous.

If you plug in an extension cord to your portable heater after some time, you’ll notice that the cord is very hot. That’s not what we want. So, if that’s in contact through conduction, it could start a fire with anything that’s combustible.

John Shull, Columbus Fire and EMS Division Chief and Fire Marshal

Local officials also encourage residents to clean their fireplace at least once a year as the residual ash from a recent fire can reignite.