Fire department stresses safety during holiday season

The Cranbrook fire department is urging residents to stay safe during the holdiay season by being mindful of Christmas tree decorations and holdiay meal preparations to help prevent any home fire situations.

A little added awareness and some minor adjustments to holiday cooking and decorating can help keep the season festive and safe for everybody, says Bill Munro, Fire Prevention Coordinator with Cranbrook Fire and Emergency Services.

“By taking some really simple, preventative steps the majority of home fires can easily be prevented,” said Munro.

Fire departments annually respond to an average of over 250 structure fires caused by Christmas trees, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Nearly half of them are caused by electrical problems, and one in four resulted from a heat source that’s too close to the tree.

Here are some tips for picking, placing and lighting the tree:

• If you have an artificial tree, be sure it’s labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fireretardant.

• If you choose a fresh tree, make sure the green needles don’t fall off when touched; before placing it in the stand, cut 1-2” from the base of the trunk. Add water to the tree stand and be sure to water it daily.

• Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit and is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, candles and heat vents or lights.

• Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory, and make sure you know whether they are designed for indoor or outdoor use.

• Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords, or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini-string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.

• Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.

• Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving the home or going to bed.

• After Christmas, get rid of the tree. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage or placed outside the home.

• Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.

With unattended cooking being the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, it is important to stay in the kitchen while you’re frying, grilling or broiling food.

“Most cooking fires involve the stovetop, so keep anything that can catch fire away from it, and turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even if it’s for a short period of time. If you’re simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking,” Munro said.

Munro suggests creating a ‘kid-free zone’ of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food and drinks are prepared or carried.

Candles are widely used in homes throughout the holidays, and December is the peak month for home candle fires.

Cranbrook Fire & Emergency Services encourages residents to consider using flameless candles, which look and smell like real candles. However, if you do use traditional candles, keep them at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and remember to blow them out when you leave the room or go to bed.

Use candle holders that are sturdy, won’t tip over and are placed on uncluttered surfaces. Avoid using candles in the bedroom where two in five candle fires begin or other areas where people may fall asleep. Lastly, never leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle.

“The holidays can quickly turn from joyful to tragic when a fire occurs,” says Munro. “By taking simple precautions, people can avoid potential fire hazards, and make this time of year a healthy and happy one.”

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