JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)- As fall temperatures arrive, more homeowners are turning on their furnace or space heater for the first time, but there are safety steps to take before flipping the switch.
Heating system fires are the second leading cause of home fires in the fall and winter, according to the American Red Cross.
"It's a goodidea to check them before the heating season starts that way if there'sanything that's wrong, anything that needs to be adjusted or replaced, that's thesafer way to go into the season," said JD McGregor, owner of McGregor's Heating and Cooling.
He said any gas appliancesshould be checked regularly.
"This one in particular, it needs to be vacuumedout and we'll vacuum that out but they get dirty and they need to be cleaned,it's just a safety issue," McGregor said.
He said fires during this time of year is common especially if the furnace has not been well- maintained. Another partof the maintenance is making sure nothing is cracked or broken.
"If they get a crack in them, you can getcarbon monoxide in the home and people die from that so you have to make sure that'snot the case," McGregor said.
Homeowners should be sure to change theirfilters about every 3 months.
"You canhave a mouse make a nest in here, I mean I've seen that," McGregor said. "I've seen snakes andall kinds of animals, I've even seen cats."
McGregorsaid it's not as big a problem if something gets in the ductwork of the furnace.The real problem occurs if it gets near the flame because it can ignite.
"If you get a crack in any of this stuff, itcan let gas out in the wrong place and then it actually blows a little flame inthere," he said.
But McGregoradvises homeowners to not inspect the furnace themselves but to call a licensedtechnician.
"On a gasappliance, it really needs to be someone who knows the equipment because ahomeowner is not going to know what to look for," he said.
It's important homeowners keep the area around their furnace clean and to keep anything flammable away from the vent pipe.