Prevent holiday fires
by Chance Wright
Nov 29, 2012 | 1817 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With holiday decorations going up everywhere, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Bolivar County.

And as the seasons change and our clothing goes from flip-flops and shorts to long johns and down coats, the risk of structure fires and injuries increase, especially when decorating for the holidays.

According to the United States Consumer and Product Safety Commission, during the holiday season the number of house fires across the nation increases.

In fact, their independent study shows that during the holidays there is, on average, approximately 500 Christmas tree related fires, approximately 14,000 candle related fires and about 14,000 people sent to the hospital for falls, cuts, shocks, and burns related with holiday decorations.

"Every year is different," said Cleveland Fire Inspector Gene Bishop. "Some years we see a good number of structure fires during the holiday season while other years we don't but historically across the nation the number of fire calls do increase over the holidays."

Bishop said that in addition to having a practiced exit plan in case of a fire, families could take some other simple precautions that will help to keep their homes and families safe during the season.

"The cause of many holiday season fires revolves around the Christmas tree," he said. "If you are going to use a real tree then make sure that it is a fresh one and not one that has been sitting around drying out for a few weeks."

Bishop said that another important tip is to cut the trunk of the tree at an angle.

"It absorbs more water that way," he said. "Also be sure to keep the container, or tree holder, that your using full of water."

Taking precautions while lighting and decorating the tree will also greatly reduce the chances of disasters.

"Make sure that the lighting used is of good quality and UL, or Underwriters Laboratories approved," Bishop added. "Before stringing them on the tree be sure to check for broken bulbs and frays in the cords. Also keep in mind that antique lights will generate more heat than newer ones."

He said that in no circumstance is it O.K. to put candles or other open flames on or near a tree when decorated.

"The guidelines for outdoors decorating is similar," he continued. "Again, make sure that you have good lights and never attached them to structures with nails or staples through the wire."

Bishop said that other factors should be taken into account to prevent hazards during the season.

"A lot of times we see people using the stove as a heater," he said. "This should never, ever be the case. Stoves are not meant to heat homes and pose a true danger when used this way."

Cooking is another activity that can often result in disasters.

"When cooking never leave the stove unattended," Bishop said. "People cook a lot during the holidays and may leave something on the stove – for just a minute – and that turns out to be a minute too long. It is also a good idea to turn the pot handles to the inside to avoid children reaching up and burning themselves."

The holiday season doesn't have to be a time for worry. Make sure to always have a fire extinguisher on hand and be sure that smoke detectors are in every room and functioning properly.

The inspector said that if in doubt always call to ensure your families safety.

"Under any circumstances, if you suspect a fire or smell smoke then call," Bishop concluded. "That is what we are here for. We would rather come out and assess a false alarm or a small kitchen fire that to have a fire that could consume the entire structure."