House fires up nationwide by 60 percent in 2018

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NORTH PLATTE. Neb -- 2018 has been a very busy year for first-responders and the American Red Cross nationwide.

In fact, the wintry and bitterly cold start to the new year has resulted in 60 percent more house fires than in 2017.

In fact, the agency has responded to eight house fires in central and western Nebraska so far this year, compared to three this time last year.

A couple from Indianola died after a candle caught their home on fire last month.

And just this week, a electrical shortage left a family homeless in Lexington.

However, the majority of fires are caused by alternative heat sources such as fire places and space heaters.

North Platte Fire Marshal George Lewis says these fires can be prevented if one just takes the time to install them correctly.

"Make sure the furnaces are working properly, have a trained person to come and check them out, make sure they are burning properly and your vents are working properly," said Lewis. "Also, if you are using electrical space heaters make sure that you plug them directly into an outlet and you are in the room when you are using them and when you go to leave the room turn them off."

According to the Red Cross, there is a house fire every eight minutes and seven people die daily in home fires.

"With the wood burning appliances you should make sure if you burn a lot in them, that you check the chimney's and the vent pipes to make sure the creosote buildup isn't real thick if you get a chimney fire," Lewis said. "Also, make sure that you burn pure wood at all times because if you use green wood the creosote build up will be a lot quicker."

The American Red Cross and the North Platte Fire Department say having a smoking alarm that works and having an evacuation plan will increase you chance of escaping a house fire safely.