EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Over the past month, Southern New England has seen some serious fires which made homes unlivable, reduced businesses to rubble, and in some cases even turned deadly.

“When you go to a fire and the fire department pulls up and there’s a house fully engulfed in flames, it’s devastating,” Rhode Island State Fire Marshal Timothy McLaughlin said Monday.

Fires like the one that killed two people in Providence and another that destroyed a furniture store in Lincoln can happen to anyone in just a matter of moments, according to McLaughlin.

He said building fires become more common as the weather gets colder.

“We’re fortunate we haven’t hit that cold stretch, but it’s coming,” McLaughlin added.

To help prevent these fires, McLaughlin warned people to use caution when heating their homes this winter, especially when using external sources like space heaters. He said they should be placed on a noncombustible floor, with at least three feet of space in each direction, and plugged directly into a wall socket.

“A regular household extension cord – that’s where the fires start,” the fire marshal said.

Christmas trees can also be potential hazards, McLaughlin said. Nearly 200 fires are caused by Christmas trees each year nationwide, and half of those are due to malfunctioning lights or overloaded electrical circuits.

“Just make sure you water it and keep it away from any heat source that can start it up,” McLaughlin said.

People are also reminded to make sure their fire alarms are fully operational and have working batteries.