Forecasters say temperatures in South Louisiana will finally begin to make it feel like fall this week. For at least a few days, gone will be the high humidity and heat index. Instead, we'll all be treated to azure blue skies and crisp morning temperatures that will make that morning coffee taste extra delicious.

There is a dangerous side to this switch in seasons. Unfortunately, you will hear about that danger this week. I can almost guarantee that a local fire department will have to respond to a residential fire that was caused by a heating unit that was prepared for the beginning of cooler weather.

No, it won't be that drastically cold, but for a lot of residents it will be cold enough to light a fire in the fireplace, plug in a space heater, or light the pilot light in the gas furnace to bring a little warmth to your home. That's all well and good. Just check a few things before you add heat.

For example, with your home heating unit:

1. If you haven't changed or cleaned your filter then you should. If you can't remember the last time that you cleaned or changed your filter, then it's been too long. It will save you money down the road and it's a simple thing you can do yourself.

2. It's supposed to stink for a little while. The dust of the Summer has settled onto the heating elements of your furnace. That smell is that dust being burned up by the unit. The smell should only last a short time.

3. Is the area around your heating unit clear? You need to check that because it could be a fire hazard if you don't. If your heater is in an attic you might have stored things next to the unit during the Summer. It's always a good idea to be safe than sorry.

4. Does your smoke detector work? Have you really tested it? Now would be a good time to check and change the batteries and make sure that the smoke detector is clean. You can brush some of the dust off or wipe it down with a soft cloth. Again it is better to be safe than sorry.

As far as your fireplace is concerned you'll want to make sure your flue is open and that the chimney is actually venting the smoke from your fireplace correctly. You'll also want to make sure the hearth area around the fireplace is clear of combustibles too.

Space heaters can also be dangerous if you don't follow the manufacturer's directions. Those devices pull a lot of electrical current so don't plug your space heater into a power strip and expect all of your other devices to operate without blowing a breaker.

Space heaters also require adequate space too. That means keeping the heating element away from drapes, curtains, wastepaper baskets, and other combustibles is absolutely necessary for a safe start to the colder weather months.

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