The borough of Jim Thorpe is in mourning today.

Two devastating and tragic fires occurred in the borough this week, less than 48 hours apart, and less than two blocks away from each other.

The first, on Wednesday, destroyed two homes and seriously damaged two others and left a popular and well-known town resident, Corrine "Corrie" Miller, fighting for her life while in critical condition in the Lehigh Valley Hospital Center. A firefighter and a neighbor went into her burning home and rescued her.

Early this morning, an even more tragic event took place. Two people died in a fire in North Avenue. A woman and a man were killed in the blaze.

While firefighters and the state police fire marshall conduct their investigation into the still undetermined cause of both fires, we can only speculate as to what caused them. It's no secret that when frigid, cold weather arrives each winter, the chance of fire increases as people struggle to stay warm.

Don't take chances. If your chimney wasn't cleaned before the heating season began, don't hesitate. Call someone today and get it checked out. Chimney fires, caused by creosote buildup, are some of the most common fires, and they can be minimized with some simple precautions.

If you use a space heater in a room, make sure it's a good distance away from anything flammable. Make sure the unit is in good working order.

Be careful when lighting candles. Although the scented candles are warming and inviting, especially now during the Christmas season, they can be dangerous if left unattended.

If you have a wood stove, burn only dry, seasoned wood, and don't overload the fireplace.

Everyone should have smoke and Carbon Dioxide detectors in their homes. If you don't have them, go out today and purchase them. Your family's safety shouldn't be compromised. If you already have detectors, then check to see if they are in good working order. They may need new batteries. Stock up now.

With the official start of winter still a week-and-a-half away, we can expect much freezing weather during the next three months. Stay warm, but above all, stay safe. Take the extra time and effort to ensure that your home is as safe as possible.

The two fires this week were two too many. The tragedies sent a sad, but sobering message to us all.

Bob Urban

rurban@tnonline.com