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House fires prompt officials to offer safety tips for homeowners

At least 6 major house fires have occurred in last 2 weeks

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – At least six major house fires in the area over the last two weeks have prompted officials to offer fire safety tips for homeowners, especially as temperatures drop. 

Most of the fires are still under investigation.

Foul play is suspected in the death of a man whose body was found Nov. 30 in a house fire on the Westside, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said Monday. 

RELATED: Foul play suspected in death of disabled man found in house fire

Two homes went up in flames in Jacksonville on Saturday afternoon. A home in the Miramar neighborhood caught fire about 5 p.m. and the homeowner said the fire may have started in a front room, where somehow a candle got onto the couch.

Several hours earlier, about 50 percent of a Westside home on Appleton Avenue was ruined in a fire that may have started from an electrical wire in the kitchen, according to the state fire marshal's office. The homeowner, a Jacksonville police officer, was working when the fire was reported about 1:30 p.m.

RELATED: 2 homes go up in flames, 1 destroyed

"He has a lot of his mind," said neighbor James Donaldson. "Worst time of year that this could possibly happen -- plain and simple." 

Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters, said the house fires serve as an unfortunate reminder to check the batteries in smoke detectors. 

During the holiday season, officials said, it's important to use LED lights on Christmas trees so they don't get too hot and keep the base full of water to prevent the tree from becoming dehydrated and catching fire. 

By unplugging things during the day that don't need to be plugged in, Wyse said, homeowners can also cut down the risk of electrical fires. 

"I know at least two incidents where there have been house fires of cellphone chargers that have been left plugged into the wall. Sometimes we do it. When you go to unplug it, you see how hot it is," Wyse said.

The Fraternal Order of Police created a GoFundMe page for the officer on Appleton Avenue in hopes of raising $5,000.