As the weather begins to cool, our thoughts turn to the unnecessary fires we can expect to see over the next several months. Approximately 3,500 Americans die each year in fires - a good majority of them in their own homes. Many of those fires could have been prevented had individuals paid closer attention to the hazards found around the house.

Courierarea firefighters put their lives on the line every time they answer a call. They've battled fires from food burning on a stovetop to fully-engulfed buildings. Each call is handled with efficiency and professionalism.

October is National Fire Prevention Month. It calls our attention to the bravery of our firefighters and to remind people to be aware of fire dangers. For example:

• Keep matches and lighters away from children. They have a curiosity about fire that can quickly turn into tragedy.

• Be sure you have smoke alarms in your home - and check them to make sure they have batteries that work. Place them high on walls so rising smoke will activate them. Test them every month; change the batteries every year.

• Don't overload electrical outlets. A short-circuit has been the cause of many fires.

• Store flammable liquids safely, in approved safety containers. Use them only in well-ventilated areas, away from heat sources.

• Have a preplanned escape route for your family in the event of a fire at your home. When leaving a burning room, close the door but don't lock it, so firefighters can enter quickly to extinguish the blaze.

• If your clothing catches fire, stop, drop and roll while protecting your face with your hands to extinguish the flames.

• Make sure your furnace and fireplace are in good working order.

• Never use a kitchen stove to heat your home. If you use space heaters, make sure they are safe and don't place them near furniture or clothing.

National Fire Prevention Month reminds us to protect ourselves. It also gives us a chance to tell our firefighters: Thank you for your hard work.