The cooler seasonal weather has arrived quickly and already most people have probably have turned on their home heat.

By chance, have you had your furnaces cleaned lately? Did you clean your chimney within the past year?

If you answered "no" to either question, you might be putting your life and the lives of your loved ones in jeopardy.

Every year when cooler weather arrives and the furnaces are re-ignited, there are always some dwelling fires that occur in the area, especially in the chimneys or in the basements where the furnace is located.

Often they are caused by the neglect by the homeowner of having them cleaned.

Chimney fires aren't always contained. Often they spread to the rest of the house.

With both chimney and furnace neglect, there's another concern besides fires. It's carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is as deadly as an open fire. It actually can be more dangerous because it can overcome you before you are aware the danger exists.

Take safety precautions and get your chimney and furnace cleaned. Especially with furnaces, call in a professional. Have him go over the heater to make sure it is working properly.

Besides safety, it also can mean a substantial savings in fuel costs.

And speaking of safety, make sure your family is aware of fire escape measures.

If fire occurs in your residence, be sure your family has an escape plan.

Don't try to extinguish the fire yourself. More people are killed by smoke inhalation that flames.

Here's something else to note:

Smithsonian.com addresses the deadly nature of modern homes.

The extensive coverage shines the light on the need for fire sprinklers in today's one- and two-family dwellings.

The article highlights the fact that "today's house fires burn eight items faster and produce 200 times the amount of smoke that a fire would have 50 years ago..." and includes the UL video showing an average-sized room furnished with modern products fully engulfed in flames in three minutes, while the same room, furnished with items 50 years of age took 30 minutes to do the same.

One last thought about fire safety. Keep hallways and stairs clear of objects.

Should a fire occur, items in a hallway or on stairs could cause you to trip and fall, creating a life-threatening situation.

In addition, they could cause a hazard for firefighters who enter your home to battle a blaze.

Firefighting is a dangerous task. Don't increase the risk by placing obstacles in hallways and on stairs for the firefighters.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com