Although mid-day temperatures are still warm, the fall season has brought cooler temperatures to Elmore County. Before winter arrives with cold weather, it’s important for residents to make sure their homes and heating sources are up for the task of keeping their families warm.

“The time to prepare is now,” Wetumpka Fire Department fire chief Greg Willis said. “Once the weather says we are about to get a cold snap, it is too late to fully prepare.”

One of the primary items to check takes a few moments at the most and it can save your life if you’re asleep — the smoke detector.

“Anytime we are talking about fire safety, we recommend everyone checks their smoke detectors,” Willis said. “An easy way to remember when to check a smoke detector is to do so when the time changes in the fall and in the spring.”

To test a smoke detector, press and hold the test button for several seconds. A loud, ear-piercing siren should emanate from the device while the button is pressed. If the sound is weak or nonexistent, replace the batteries.

Willis said the Wetumpka Fire Department responds to several fires in the winter months caused by combustible items located too close to a heating source.

“Every year we have at least a few fires with combustible items sitting too close to a heat source,” he said. “Never have combustible items 36 inches or closer to a heat source.”

Another type of winter fire typically occurs when no one is home, according to Willis.

“People unknowingly keep portable heaters plugged in during cold times,” he said. “People wake up and go to work. The temperature drops during the day and that heater kicks on and it’s left unattended.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating is the second leading cause of home fires, deaths and injuries with December, January and February as the peak months for heating fires.

Another fire source that is typically less destructive, Willis said, but still prevalent, stems from improperly maintained chimneys.

“We recommend homeowners get their chimneys cleaned now,” he said. “Creosote can build up on the inside of the chimney flue which can cause a fire.”