WHITE MOUNTAINS — Every year firefighters and law enforcement have too many fires to deal with that could have been prevented with just a little normal property owner maintenance.

Between Oct. 1 and Jan. 29 the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office (NCSO) has had to respond to no fewer than 18 fires while Timber Mesa Fire and Medical District (TMFMD) firefighters responded to 25 fires.

“These fires ranged from brush fires to total loss structure fires with an estimated resulting loss of $588,501,” a press release from NCSO Public Information Officer Tori Gorman stated.

Because the White Mountains is in a part of the state that experiences a lot of snowfall and very low temperatures during the winter months, Gorman included some tips from the NCSO and the TMFMD to help people keep from needing someone to respond to an unwanted fire.

• Have your fireplace inspected and cleaned before using

• Replace the batteries in all smoke (and carbon monoxide) detectors twice a year

• Never plug a space heater into an extension cord

• Never use a stove or oven as a source of heat

• Always make sure coals are cold to the touch before disposing

• Have an escape plan for you and your family

• Always have a fire extinguisher available

• Keep lighters and matches out of the reach of children

Gorman stated that it is a must that everyone, be they renters or homeowners or if they live in an apartment or in a single or dual level home, they need to have an escape plan in place in the event of a fire, and they need to discuss the escape plan and practice it so everyone knows what to do.

Gorman also reminded parents to teach their children that fire is not a toy, but a tool to be used by adults and to teach children not to hide from firefighters or police who come to their aid during a catastrophe like a fire.

Just as important to having an escape plan is to do the required maintenance on things like fireplace chimneys at least once a year to make sure they are serviceable and have a minimal chance of causing a fire.

“Each winter Navajo County Sheriff’s deputies respond to an increasing number of residential and structure fires due primarily to a lack of adequate heating sources. Our investigations lead us to find that many of these fires may have been prevented by taking the extra steps to be fire-wise in our homes. Please take the time to inspect your furnace, chimney, and electric heaters. Also, make sure to keep furniture and other flammables clear of your heating sources. It’s very unfortunate when a family is displaced, or even worse, suffers a loss of life as a result of a fire,” Gorman quotes NCSO Sheriff David Clouse in her press release.

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