A fire that claimed the life of a 98-year-old New Hartford woman is a grim reminder that 'tis the season for tragedy.

Take steps now to make sure you and the people you love don't become victims. 

Last Saturday morning, fire broke out at the home of Rye A. King of 48 Pearl St. Fire officials said she was found in the rear of the residence near the back door. Cause of death was ruled due to smoke inhalation.

Officials said the fire was not suspicious, but the cause has not yet been reported.

The statistics aren't pretty. According to the National Fire Protection Administration (NFPA), U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 365,500 home structure fires in 2015. These fires caused 2,560 deaths, 11,075 civilian injuries, and $7 billion in direct damage.

While some fires might not be avoided, many can be prevented. The holidays, as well as the colder season, create numerous opportunities for accidental fires, and residents should be on guard. Everything from improper use of candles, dry Christmas trees and faulty extension cords to inadequate heating sources, lack of or non-working smoke alarms and unattended cooking issues could turn into tragedy.

The NFPA says that half of home fire deaths result from fires reported between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. One-quarter of them were caused by fires that started in the bedroom. Three out of five fire fatalities happen in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

Smoking materials are the leading cause of home fire deaths. Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fire injuries, followed by heating equipment.

Here are some essentials everyone should be aware of when it comes to fire safety:

• Make sure your home is equipped with working smoke detectors. Smoke will often asphyxiate victims long before the flames reach them.

• Check heating sources. Fireplaces or wood stoves, space heaters or furnaces, make sure heat sources are in good working order - free and clear of anything that might interfere with their safe operation. And always check them before leaving the house or retiring for the evening.

• Discuss fire safety, especially with children. Local fire departments or the Red Cross are good sources for information, and numerous Web sites offer excellent tips on fire prevention. Become familiar with this information and discuss it with family members. Determine at least two ways to escape from every room of your home. Also, consider escape ladders for sleeping areas on the second or third floor.

If you haven't already, develop an escape plan and practice it with your family. Have a meeting spot outside, and by all means, never go back into a burning home once you have escaped. (An NFPA survey found that only one-third of Americans have developed and practiced a home fire escape plan.