As Missourians settle in to winter weather, it’s important to remember that the things you rely on for heat in the winter could be a fire hazard.

Officials say it’s important to get your furnace serviced each year to make sure everything’s working properly. If you use wood-fueled heating sources, you should clean them or call a chimney sweep.

“If you use your fireplace or wood stove much at all, that creosote sits and it’s very flammable. That’s the most common cause of chimney and flue fires,” said Brent Butler with the Missouri Insurance Information Service.

Butler says it’s also very important to remember that a popping ember off of a fire can be a threat, too. If you’re building a fire in the fireplace, you need to make sure there’s nothing flammable within three feet of the fireplace and use a metal screen. With a wood burning stove, you also need to make sure there’s proper space between it and walls and the ceiling.

“Don’t put flammable materials anywhere near the fireplace or the wood burning stove. Don’t use your fireplace as a way to burn your trash or anything like that. Certainly don’t juice it with kerosene or anything like that when the fire’s going,” Butler said. “Don’t overfill your fireplace and keep an eye on it when you’re doing it. Don’t leave it unattended for an hour or two and just let it take care of itself. Monitor it when you’re when you’re having a fire in your fireplace.”

He says the threat isn’t over when you’re done with the fire, either.

“When you dispose of ashes make sure you do it in like a metal container. I usually, outside the home, I have a little bucket I use to put the ashes in because you don’t want to put them anywhere they can start a fire. They’ll stay hot for hours after you think that they’re out,” Butler said.

He says if a fire does spread, you need to stay calm and grab your fire extinguisher.

“Don’t throw hot water right on it; that can be a big problem if you have a fire. An approved fire extinguisher is the true, best way to handle a fire,” Butler said.

Throwing hot water on the fire can crack pipes or masonry and get more smoke in the house.

The State Fire Marshall says these types of heating equipment are the leading cause of fires in the home.

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [1 min MP3]