Winter house and barn fires, like this one in Worcester in January, 2009, present special challenges to Vermont's firefighters.
Associated Press/File

Is there a more heart-wrenching scene than the image of an old Vermont barn or house engulfed in flames on a cold winter's night, with firefighters battling the blaze?

There are a number of precautions you can take to avoid tragic fires of this sort.

With fall already here and winter coming, it's the time of year many people start thinking about using their fireplaces or woodstoves. But what about those individuals who help make sure the chimney is in proper working order?

Toby Talbot / AP

Scattered across this very rural state, there are over 200 volunteer fire departments serving towns and villages. These firefighters are called on to save people, property and pets from burning buildings.

Before they can earn the opportunity to put their lives on the line, they have to sit through hours of instruction and training.

Nearly every day in 2014, the Red Cross has been called to respond to a fire somewhere in our region. That is a dramatic increase over previous years.

Doug Bishop is with the American Red Cross of Vermont & The New Hampshire Upper Valley. He spoke with Vermont Edition about the fires they've responded to and what fire safety tips they recommend.

Charlotte Albright

As winter approaches, firefighters go on high alert. Heating is the number one cause of household fires, followed closely by cooking. Add extra candles, flammable greens, and more indoor smoking, and you could have a crisis. But will your town be able to respond to a fire? That depends on whether there are enough firefighters available, and those rosters are shrinking.