For many, fall is the best time of year. Chunky sweaters! Crunchy leaves! Cozy fires!

Wait … about those cozy fires. Sure, they’re great in the fireplace. But house fires are a real danger, and many of us are literally playing with fire. In fact, the American Red Cross finds that 7 people die in a home fire every day, while 36 suffer from injuries. And each year, $7 million in property damage occurs.

So, as Part 1 of our “Fire Safety” series, here are 4 tips to reduce your house fire risk this fall.

1. Check your smoke alarm battery

Smoke alarms are easy to forget until they chirp in the middle of the night, but experts recommend you change your fire alarm batteries every year. Several years ago, the International Fire Chiefs Association launched a campaign called “Change Your Clock, Change Your Batteries,” encouraging people to change their fire alarm batteries on the same day we switch to Daylight Saving Time in the fall. You could wait until then, but why not do it now while you’re tackling regular house maintenance?

2. Have a working fire extinguisher ready

Did you know your fire extinguisher could expire? It’s true, and you actually need to change it out every 5 to 15 years. That’s quite a variance, so one way to know whether yours is still in working order is to regularly check the pressure gauge to ensure the needle still falls within the green area. If not, it could be unreliable and should be replaced or checked. You can also have your extinguisher serviced and refilled by checking online for a center near you.

This is also a good time to review effective fire extinguisher use. The National Fire Prevention Association suggests you remember the word PASS to remind you how to use it:

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Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you and release the locking mechanism.

Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.

Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.

Sweep the nozzle from side to side.

3. Watch your candles

Yeah, we know — it’s pumpkin spice candle season. And having a house full of burning candles can feel inviting … until one causes a fire. It’s more common than you might think. In fact, the National Fire Prevention Association estimates that almost 10,000 home fires are caused by candles, with roughly one-third starting in bedrooms. This one is so easy to fix: never leave a candle unattended and be sure to extinguish all of them before you go to bed. And if you have any in the bathroom or kitchen, make sure you snuff them out too.

4. Don’t leave your pots unattended

Although it’s easy to picture candles or fireplaces causing most of the damage,  the main cause of house fires is actually cooking. (As if we needed one more reason to turn to takeout!) But kitchen fires are not to be taken lightly. They often occur when pots are left unattended or on stoves with clutter (like wooden spoons or kitchen towels) that catch a spark. So clean your stove and keep all flammable items on another counter.

Now’s also a good time to make sure you’re covered with the right insurance. Get a free quote today.

And check out Part 2 of our “Fire Safety” series on Wednesday!

Safe and smart | Home safety

about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.