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State fire marshal issues home safety tips ahead of scorching weekend

As brutal heat approaches Massachusetts this weekend, with highs around 90 degrees expected, the state fire marshal is reminding residents that air conditioners and other tools for staying cool can be fire hazards, and he is asking everyone to use caution.

Air conditioners and other large appliances should be plugged into wall outlets rather than extension cords, which can start a housefire, Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said in a statement Friday. Electrical fires are the second most common cause of fire deaths and the third most common kind of household fire in Massachusetts, he said.

“We’re looking at a hot, humid weekend, and many folks will be bringing out their air conditioners or heading to the store to buy them,” Ostroskey said in the statement. “Like all major appliances, these devices should be plugged directly into a wall outlet. They can overload a power strip or extension cord and cause a fire.”

Ostroskey added that residents should avoid overloading any outlets, use extension cords only for temporary purposes, use only one of the devices that is plugged into a power strip at a time, and check electrical cords for damage periodically.

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He said laptops, phones, and other electronic devices should be charged on solid, stable surfaces rather that beds or sofas, and homeowners should call a licensed electrician to repair any flickering lights; unusually warm plugs, cords, or switches; fuses that are frequently blown; or circuit breakers that often trip.

Anyone smelling a burning odor, hearing a sizzling or buzzing sound, or seeing sparks should call their local fire department, Ostroskey said.

“No matter the weather, every household should have working smoke alarms on every floor and a practiced home escape plan that accounts for two ways out,” Ostroskey said. “A fire at home can become deadly in less than three minutes.”

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Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.