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Holiday Fire Safety Tips

By Jim Cheatham

December is a great month with much to celebrate. Unfortunately, it is also a month that can see an increase in damage and injury from fire.

We typically see our first real cold snaps this time of year, making it a good time to warm up around the fireplace. Before you light your first log, check the chimney for soot buildup, make sure your flue is open, and use a fireplace screen to prevent embers from popping out and burning the floor or carpet. You should avoid burning new wood, and do not use the fireplace as a way to get rid of wrapping paper. Never use lighter fluid or other flammable liquid to start your fire.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, one out of every four Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems. Christmas tree fires are far deadlier statistically than other house fires, with one in 32 resulting in a fatality. A dry Christmas tree can take less than thirty seconds to engulf a room in flames. Keep your tree well-watered and away from heat sources. Artificial trees that are flame-retardant are a safer choice.

Old decorative lighting and improper installation are another reason for seasonal fires. Be sure to inspect your lights before installation. Frayed wires, broken sockets, and damaged bulbs should not be used. Follow manufacturer instructions. Don’t string too many lights together, and check that ground fault interrupters are functioning properly.

Candles cause two out of five home decoration fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, with the top three days for home candle fires being Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Christmas Eve. Make sure candles are on firm, sturdy surfaces away from anything flammable. Do not leave candles unattended.

The number of fire fatalities caused by children playing with fire also goes up during this time of year. Set a good example, and don’t play with fire or matches. Your children are watching and will mimic your behavior. Teach responsible use of fire and matches, and always provide adult supervision.

Cooking is another leading cause of fires during this time of year. The U.S. Fire Administration suggests you stand by your pan and turn the burner off if you leave the kitchen. Pay attention to what you are cooking, and turn the burner off if you see smoke or oil starts to boil. Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove, and keep a pan lid or baking sheet handy to smother a fire if necessary.

Have fun and enjoy each other’s company. Decorate and celebrate to your heart’s content. By heeding these few simple precautions, you can ensure a safe and happy holiday season.