AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) – In the winter, first responders say house fires are a major problem. NewsChannel 6 spoke with them about the causes, and how to keep homes and families safe.

The U.S. Fire Administration says the second leading cause of house fires is heating, right behind cooking.

Many people use space heaters, fireplaces and even ovens to heat their homes, but these options are highly flammable and dangerous.

“That can cause all kinds of problems. Primarily your oven isn’t meant to be a heater, so things on the counter can ignite,” said Sgt. Joe O’Conor, a community services sargent with the Aiken Department of Public Safety.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters cause 2 out of 5 fires.

“You always want to have three feet of space around any space heater and you always want to make sure you plug a space heater directly into an outlet,” Sgt. O’Conor said.

Having proper smoke and carbon monoxide detectors is key to preventing major damage.

“They should be located in the sleeping areas so it will wake you up at night. Most of the fires do seem to occur at night,” said Don Schoenecker, a Red Cross volunteer.

And after a recent deadly house fire in Aiken County, these fire experts want people to know how easy it is for a house to go up in flames, and how they can prepare for it.

“This is a good time right now while families are home and on holiday vacation, to get together and come up with a safety plan and make sure all of the members of your family know how to get out and where to go,” Sgt. O’Conor said. “Have a meeting place, a lot of times a mailbox is a safe bet, but somewhere near the house that everybody knows to get out and go to that point.”

There won’t be much time, and the more prepared people are, the better.

“You really have very limited time to get out. Think of it as a 2 minute drill. You need to be able to gather everything you need that you would leave the house with in 2 minutes,” Schoenecker said.

And remember, never leave a heating source unattended.