12/20/10 — Don't let a fire ruin Christmas this last week

View Archive

Don't let a fire ruin Christmas this last week

By From staff reports
Published in News on December 20, 2010 1:46 PM

As the holiday season moves into the home stretch and people are at their busiest, the Wayne County Chapter of the American Red Cross is urging families to keep in mind that fires can start easily.

Red Cross officials said that during the winter season, the incidence and severity of home fires dramatically increase.

"Many home fires can be prevented and that's what makes this type of disaster so devastating," said Chuck Waller, executive director of the Wayne County Chapter of the Red Cross. "The holidays can be a time of celebration and by following a few quick safety tips, you can help prevent your family's festivities from being disrupted by a fire. Making safety an important part of your holiday preparations can help you do this."

Last holiday season, the local Red Cross chapter responded to 74 home fires and provided 202 people with immediate emergency assistance including shelter, food, counseling and more, Waller said.

In addition to following safety precautions with holiday lights and decorations, this is a great time for local families to make sure that their smoke alarms are functioning properly and practice their home fire escape plan, he said.

At a minimum, smoke alarms need to be installed outside of each sleeping area and on each level of your home. If you sleep with closed doors, install alarms inside sleeping areas too.

Use the test button to test each smoke alarm once a month. All smoke alarm batteries need to be replaced once a year.

Fire escape plans should include at least two escape routes for every room in the home.

Also chose a convenient meeting place at a safe distance from your home. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year with all family members.

The Wayne County Chapter of the Red Cross recommends these tips to help prevent holiday home fires:

Christmas tree:

* Purchase flame retardant metallic or artificial trees.

* If you purchase a real tree, make sure that it has fresh, green needles that aren't easily broken. Keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water.

* Use a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over.

* Keep trees at least three feet away from heat sources, including fireplaces, portable heaters, radiators, heat vents and candles.

* Make sure that any light strings or other decorations for the tree are in good condition and follow manufacturer's instructions for their use. Do not use anything with frayed electrical cords.

* Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree.

* Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove.

* Safely dispose of trees as they become dry and needles begin to drop.

* Dispose of trees through recycling centers or community pick-up services. Dried-out trees should not be left at home or in a garage or placed against the home or garage.

Holiday lights and decorations:

* Always unplug tree and holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.

* Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear.

* Avoid overloading electrical outlets by not linking more than three light strands.

* Use decorations that are flame-resistant or flame-retardant.

* Place decorations at least three feet away from fireplaces, portable heaters, radiators, heat vents and candles.

Holiday candles:

* Remember that lit candles are fire. Always extinguish candles before leaving the room or going to bed.

* Never use lit candles to decorate a tree.

* Keep candles at least 12 inches away from trees, evergreens, holiday decorations and other items that can catch on fire like clothing, papers and curtains.

* Use candle holders that are sturdy, won't tip over easily, are made from a material that cannot burn and are large enough to collect dripping wax.

* Place candles only where they cannot be reached or easily knocked over by children and pets.

* Consider using battery-operated "flameless" candles that are scented and have a flickering affect.

For more tips or questions, call the Red Cross chapter at 735-7201.