As the cold and snow descend and Christmas approaches, the Mineral County Fire Department is urging caution to prevent house fires.

T.C. Knight, Fire Chief, said keeping chimneys, fireplaces, and stoves clean is crucial to keeping homes standing.

Last year about half of the structure fires the fire department responded to were in chimneys or caused by faulty or dirty fireplaces or stoves, Knight said.

Knight said stoves and chimneys should be cleaned at least once a year, or more if the wood used produced a lot of soot.

“Remember to have your chimneys and stoves cleaned, you could prevent the next fire before it happens and save you or your family’s lives in the process,” Knight said. “And that’s always good.”

Knight also said Mineral County residents with live Christmas Trees should take care that they don’t catch fire.

Trees should be kept away from heat sources, like fireplaces, radiators, candles or heat vents.

Keep candles away from the tree and surrounding furniture.

Christmas lights should be turned off at night so they don’t set the tree ablaze.

Trees should be regularly watered, and tree owners should watch for signs the tree has died, Knight said.

“When you tree begins to drop its needles, it’s time to say goodbye to your evergreen foliage until next year,” Knight said.

Another good sign the tree is past its prime is its color. When the needles turn brown, the tree has become a fire hazard, Knight said.

He also said there haven’t been any Christmas tree fires in Mineral County for at least two years.