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Holiday season fire safety tips

by Kenny Gabriel
| November 29, 2010 8:00 PM

Be safe this holiday season - follow these fire safety tips, prepared by the United States Fire Administration. They can help you and your family avoid the devastation that a fire during the holidays can bring.

Live Tree Precautions

Needles on fresh trees should be green and the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. If many needles fall off when you bounce a tree on the ground, the tree has probably dried out and is a fire hazard.

Set your tree up in a safe area, located away from all heat sources. If there are smokers in the house, do not allow them to smoke near the tree. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

As soon as the tree becomes dry, it needs to be disposed of promptly. If your community uses a recycling service, this is the best way to dispose of the tree. Otherwise, have the tree hauled away by your waste hauler. Never put the tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.

Artificial Trees

If you opt for an artificial tree, make sure that the tree has a fire-retardant label. If the tree is metal or aluminum, do not use any lights or electrical products to decorate it. Metal is a good conductor of electricity.

Holiday Decorative Lighting

Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory. Unplug all decorative lighting before you go to bed or before you leave the house.

Outdoor Lights

Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory and marked for outdoor use. Turn off electricity to the supply outlet before working with outdoor wiring. Run all outdoor cords above ground, keeping them out of the puddles and snow. To prevent moisture from entering bulb sockets, turn the bulbs to face the ground.

• Do not overload electrical outlets and do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Wires should not be warm to the touch.

• Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders.

Keep candles away from other decorations and wrapping paper. Place candles where they cannot be knocked down or blown over.

• Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant trimming materials. Wear gloves while decorating with spun glass "angel hair" to avoid irritation to eyes and skin. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles made of plastic or non-leaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.

• In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children. Pieces could be swallowed or inhaled.

Before lighting any fire, remove all greens, boughs, papers, and other decorations from fireplace area. Check to see that the flue is open. Keep a screen before the fireplace all the time a fire is burning. Use care with "fire salts" which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals, which can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation or vomiting if eaten. Keep away from children.

Paper and Wrappings

When making paper decorations, look for materials labeled non-combustible or flame-resistant. Never place trimming near open flames or electrical connections. Remove all wrapping papers from tree and fireplace areas immediately after presents are opened. Do not burn papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.

General Rules for Holiday Safety

Have working smoke detectors installed on every level of your home, test them monthly, and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times.

Keep matches, lighters, and candles out of the reach of children.

Avoid smoking near flammable decorations.

Make an emergency plan to use if a fire breaks out anywhere in the home. See that each family member knows what to do. PRACTICE THE PLAN!

Avoid wearing loose flowing clothes - particularly long, open sleeves - near open flames - such as those of a fireplace, stove, or candlelit table.

Never burn candles near evergreens. Burning evergreens in the fireplace can also be hazardous. When dry, greens burn like tinder. Flames can flare out of control, and send sparks flying into a room, or up the chimney to ignite creosote deposits.

Plan for safety. Remember, there is no substitute for common sense. Look for and eliminate potential danger spots near candles, fireplaces, trees, and/or electrical connection.

For more information please contact Fire Chief Kenny Gabriel at 769-2340.

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