With each cold snap comes an added risk that goes beyond cold or flu -- deaths due to fires in the home.

Each year during December, January and February, as the temperatures drop and the heat is turned on, the number of fires goes up, officials say.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating is the second leading cause of home fires, deaths and injuries in the United States.

In 2017, 83 people in North Carolina lost their lives to fire, 14 more than the year before.

"One life lost in fire is one life too many," said Mike Causey, N.C. insurance commissioner and the state's fire marshal. "It is imperative (that) citizens know of the dangers associated with home heating and carbon monoxide so they can take extra precautions during this blast of winter weather."

James Farfour, interim fire chief with the Goldsboro Fire Department, echoed the sentiment in hopes that residents will be more mindful and take necessary preventive measures, especially with small children and the elderly, and particularly with carbon monoxide, often called the "silent killer" because the gas released is odorless and colorless.

Vehicles, generators and home heating can produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in a home, he said. In a short amount of time, levels can rise enough to cause illness or even death.

Deaths due to fire are always a concern, Farfour said, compounded by the use of alternate heat sources -- like the oven and other appliances.

"If you use other heating appliances, make sure that they're safe and operating correctly," he said. "That includes gas and electric appliances. A lot of gas heating appliances are not approved for indoor use. That's where you run into the carbon monoxide (problem).

"Also, people cranking their cars up in their garage to warm them up, a lot of times they don't think about it. Even if the garage door is open, you don't want to leave it in the garage -- you want to back it out."

Farfour recommends making sure an appliance or heating apparatus is approved for indoor use and in addition to smoke detectors, having carbon monoxide detectors in place.

"This would be a good time for you to check them," he said. "If you don't have one, this would be a good time to purchase them.

"We're not used to this long of a stint in cold weather temperatures. Maybe a heater in the garage, for example, it's OK in the garage but it's not OK in the house."

This community has been fortunate so far, he says, but the fluctuating temperatures, particularly overnight, create cause for concern.

"People heating with wood, and if they're using a fireplace, make sure to have a screen in place, and don't go to sleep with the fire going," he suggests. "Have someone monitor it.

"There's a lot of things that you would not think about in your day-to-day activity."

The N.C. Department of Insurance, along with the office of the state fire marshal and Safe Kids N.C. recently released several safety tips to prevent fire or injury:

*Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment.

*Have a 3-foot "kid-free zone" around open fires and space heaters.

*Never use the oven to heat your home.

*Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.

*Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.

*Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container, placed on a non-combustible area and stored a safe distance away from the home.

*Test smoke alarms at least once a month.

*Portable generators should be operated in well ventilated locations outdoors, away from all doors, windows and vent openings.

*Never use a generator in an attached garage, even with the door open.

*Place generators so that exhaust fumes can't enter the home through windows, doors or other openings.

*Turn off generators and let them cool down before refueling. Never refuel while it is running.

*Store fuel in a container intended for that purpose and store outside of living areas.

*Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed in a central location outside of sleeping areas and on every level of the home. Test them once a month.

*During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow buildup.

*Use gas or charcoal grills outside.