2014-11-28 / Community

Take note: holiday fire safety tips

By B. Michael Thurlow
Special to the Post
B. Michael Thurlow is fire chief for Scarborough.

With the passing of Thanksgiving and the official start of the holiday season it is time for a refresher on good holiday fire safety practices.

Decorating homes and businesses is a long-standing tradition during the holiday season, but unfortunately those same decorations may increase the chance for fire.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency there are approximately 240 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 150 house fires attributed to holiday lights and other decorations each year. Together, these fires result in an average of 21 deaths and over #25 million in direct property damage.

Following some very basic fire safety tips can significantly reduce these types of incidents and save your family from the devastation of a tragic and unnecessary loss. This is a great time of year to review fire safety with your children and any elderly or disabled family members that live with you.

Make sure all the exits from your home are accessible and not blocked by decorations, trees, presents, trip hazards, or snow and ice.

Christmas trees are a beautiful tradition, but live trees need to be handled properly. Resist putting them up too early so they don’t dry out before Christmas. When purchasing a tree make sure it is fresh by checking the needles to make sure they don’t easily fall or are pulled out, a sure sign the tree was harvested too long ago.

Make sure to keep live trees watered at least once a day. When you notice the tree isn’t absorbing water any longer that it is a good indication it is drying out and is becoming unsafe.

Electrical hazards are another major concern this time of year. Strings of lights should be installed according to the manufacturer’s directions and limited in length to avoid overheating the electrical circuit.

The newer LED lights use much less power and don’t create the heat that older style bulbs do. Cords should also be checked for any damage. Be careful when hanging lights not to damage the insulation on the wire, or to overload electrical circuits. Avoid the use of extension cords when possible and always use a properly sized and grounded cord that has been tested by UL or one of the other independent testing labs.

When preparing your holiday meal, be sure to keep combustible materials away from the stove. Make sure you have a properly charged fire extinguisher in the kitchen and know how to extinguish a grease fire by smothering it without using water.

Make sure to test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors once a month.

Avoid using lit candles if at all possible. There are many new products on the market now that are battery operated and flameless, but look, smell and feel like real candles. Never put a lit candle on a tree. If you must use a real candle make sure it is in a stable holder and place them where they can’t be knocked down. Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and never leave a room or go to bed with candles burning.

The holiday season is the time to reflect on our faith and enjoy family and friends. Spending a few minutes to assure our homes are fire safe and our loved ones are trained in what to do if a fire occurs will help to make sure we don’t contribute to the holiday tragedy statistics.

On behalf of all the members of the Scarborough Fire Department I wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season.

For more information on this article or any fire department issue, you can contact me at mthurl@ci.scarborough. me.us or 730-4201.

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