By Tim Jimenez

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Red Cross officials say they’ve seen a jolt in fires in the area during the past month, including one on Saturday that killed two people in Northeast Philadelphia (read related story). It’s the most they’ve responded to in four years. They’ve had to help at least 360 people who were left without a home and officials say most of these disasters could have been prevented.

Red Cross officials are used to being extra busy this time of year.

“Trying to stay warm in the winter can be incredible dangerous,” says Judge Rene Cardwell Hughes, Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter CEO.

She says the period from December 10th to January 10th is the worst in four years, with so many affected, including two women in their third trimesters.

“Fire will take out any family without regard to economic status or what neighborhood you live in,” she says.

Hughes says some still try to use their ovens for warmth, not a good idea, but many more will underestimate their portable heaters.

“Whether they’re electric or kerosene, they are very dangerous,” she warns. “You have to be extremely careful not to place them where there are any flammable materials. You really shouldn’t sleep with them going.”

The Red Cross and fire officials stress the importance of having working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

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