Christmas and New Year’s Eve are accompanied by celebration, lights and other trimmings. They also can be accompanied by tragedies.
According to the National Fire Protection Association home fires are more prevalent in winter than in any other season. This is due in part to an increase in cooking and heating fires.
Edmond Fire Maj. Mitch Rainwater said holiday decorations and winter storms that can interrupt electrical service and cause people to turn to alternative heating sources also contribute to the increased risk of fire in winter.
At Christmas time, gathering around the living room to decorate the tree is a source of many memories.
“Trees bring us lots of joy but can quickly create an unsafe, even deadly environment if they are not taken care of correctly,” Rainwater said. “Proper care and maintenance of your tree can ensure a safe and happy Christmas.”
If you can, choose a live tree, Rainwater said. They require less water and can be planted after the season is over, he said. If you decide on a cut tree, be sure that it is fresh. The needles should be hard to pull off of the limbs and they should be able to bend between your fingers without breaking.
After bringing the tree home, cut 2 inches off of the bottom of the trunk, Rainwater said. This will help the tree to absorb water more easily. Be sure to place the trunk into a stand that is capable of holding lots of water so the tree won’t dry out. Make sure the water level never dips below the bottom of the trunk. Normal trees, depending on the size, can absorb up to one gallon of water a day and will dry out quickly without it.
When deciding where to put your tree, consider the fact that the closer the tree is to any heat source the faster it will dry out, Rainwater said. Never place it within 3 feet of a fireplace or any heating appliance, he said. Always consider when placing your tree to have as clear of an exit path as you can to your external exits. This will prevent being blocked from your exits in case of an emergency.
When it comes to decorating your tree remember that the larger the lights the more heat they produce, which could dry out the tree faster, Rainwater said. Knowing this, smaller lights may be a better option, he said. Always check to make sure your using Underwriters Laboratories lighting to assure your lighting is safe. Inspect the lighting for cracks in wire insulation that can occur over years of use. Never plug in more than three light sections at a time into an outlet.
After you take the tree down, remove it from the house, Rainwater said. He suggests taking it to a designated tree disposal area. Do not burn your tree in the fireplace or stove.
“We hope you have a Merry Christmas but most of all a safe one,” Rainwater said.
Outdoor lighting always makes the holidays exciting and magical. Be sure that if you decide to make a magical wonderland, you follow the specific guidelines and requirements for the electrical devices that you are using, Rainwater said.
“Overloading outlets, circuits and extension cords can turn good intentions into a catastrophe,” Rainwater said. “So always read the manufacturer’s instructions and follow them to the letter so your holidays can be enjoyable and safe.”
The Edmond Fire Department offers the following winter fire safety tips:
• Allow your heater to cool before refueling and only refuel outdoors. Fill your heater with only crystal clear, K-1 kerosene, not gasoline or camp stove fuel both explode easily;
• Keep the fire in the fireplace by making sure you have a screen large enough to catch flying sparks and rolling logs;
• Clean your chimney regularly chimney tar build-up can ignite your chimney, roof and the whole house;
• Space heaters need space. Keep combustibles at least three feet away from each heater. When buying a space heater, look for a control feature that automatically shuts off the power if the heater falls over. Carefully follow manufacturers' installation and maintenance instructions;
• For a wood stove fuel use only seasoned wood, not green wood, artificial logs or trash;
• Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home. Test the batteries every month and change them at least once a year. In case of a fire, stay low to the ground, beneath the smoke, and have an escape plan already worked out;
• Heating equipment that burns fuel is a potential source of carbon monoxide (CO). CO is an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas that is created when fuel burns incompletely. Install CO alarms in your home to provide you with an early warning if CO is accumulating.
FOR MORE information on how you can help prevent fire deaths, call the Edmond Fire Prevention Office at 216-7303.
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