Two families are homeless following two separate fires in the northern valley late, Thursday afternoon.
A Grand Forks fire left a family of 5 homeless. And a chimney fire has left an elderly, rural Hatton couple homeless.
A family of five got out of this house fire uninjured, at 627 North 4th Street in Grand Forks. Fire investigators say the fire was caused by children playing with a lighter. The investigation revealed that the children were playing in a bedroom, where they lighted combustibles on fire. The fire grew in intensity and eventually overtook the bedroom, causing it to become fully engulfed in fire.
Fire officials say the main floor of the home suffered heavy fire damage, and the entire home suffered heavy water and smoke damage. The Red Cross is now caring for them.
Reporter: "Did they have smoke detectors?
Rob Corbett, Grand Forks Fire Dept.: "I believe they did. But, I'm unsure whether they were working at this point."
Corbett says he's seen a spike in the number of fires around the region during our recent string of cold weather. He has several tips for all home owners. He does not recommend the use of space heaters. But, he says if you use one, make sure it has 3-feet of clearance around it and don't leave it on … if you're not going to be home."
A wood stove chimney fire is being blamed for a fire at this farm home two miles west of Hatton. Hatton Fire Chief, David Brandon says the roof the home was on fire when they arrived. He says the elderly couple living here got out safely, but the entire home suffered heavy smoke and water damage.
Fire experts say everyone needs to make sure their heating systems are in good working order.
Rob Corbett, GF Fire Dept.: "Ensure your heating system has been serviced and is operating properly. Air filters will save you money and also ensure that system is operating efficiently."
We still have a lot of cold days of winter ahead that will continue to push everyone's heating system to the max.
Fire officials recommend that your home should not only have working smoke detectors, but carbon monoxide detectors as well. They also say if you have lighters or matches in your home keep them locked-up and out of reach of children. Teach children that fire is a "tool and not a toy" and if they find matches or lighters they should give them to an adult immediately.