December 21, 1998
Fire Department offers advice
The end-of-the-year holidays are meant to be a joyful time. Unfortunately, it is also a prime time for residential fires. Decorative lights, candles, parties where people drink and smoke, and especially the onset of the heating season all contribute to the likelihood of fire.
The Northshore Fire Department urges you to follow these guidelines during the holiday season:
- Christmas Trees: Choose a fresh Christmas tree. Make sure the needles are not shedding. Before placing the tree in a large, deep, non-tip stand, cut the tree trunk at an angle. Locate your tree away from exits, fireplaces, and heat sources. Be sure your tree has water constantly. If you use an artificial tree, be sure that it is labeled as being flame-retardant. Also, never use electric lights on a metal Christmas tree.
- Holiday Lights: Use only decorative lights that bear the label of an independent testing laboratory. Replace any light sets that have cracked or frayed cords or have loose connections. Don't overload outlets or run extension cords under carpets, across doorways, on or under heaters, or pinched behind furniture. Unplug all decorative lights before leaving home or going to bed.
- Candles: Always put candles in non-tip candleholders before you light them. Do not place burning candles near combustible decorations or displays, and keep them away from curtains and other combustible articles. Never place candles in windows or near exits; these are your avenues of escape in an emergency, and a burning candle could accidentally start a fire, blocking your escape. Never leave candles burning unattended. And keep them away from small children. Extinguish candles before you leave the room or go to bed.
- Fireplaces: Have your chimney inspected by a professional at least once a year and cleaned, if necessary. Always use a fire screen and burn only materials appropriate for a fireplace. Never burn trash, paper, or gift-wrap in the fireplace; burning paper can float up a chimney and onto your roof or into your yard. Remove ashes in a metal container and never store them in your home.
- Furnaces and Space Heaters: Keep your furnace maintained and in good repair. When using space heaters, locate them at least three feet from furniture, curtains, bedding, walls, or any other combustible materials. Always use the proper fuel for liquid-fuel space heaters, vent them, and refill them only in ventilated areas when they are cool. Make sure the heater has a label from a safety laboratory.
- Party Safety: Use only flame-retardant or non-combustible materials for decorations. Have large, deep, non-tip ashtrays available for smokers, and keep an eye on anyone who is drinking and smoking. Empty ashtrays often, and wet their contents before emptying them. Check cushions and furniture for smoldering cigarette butts, or smoldering cigar ashes.