Fire safety tips for happy holidays

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bright lights on the tree, a festively decorated house, a warm fire in the fireplace. Christmas is a time to celebrate family, friends and the joy of the season.

It's also time to check the batteries in the smoke alarms and take some extra precautions to prevent a fire.

"The top thing on the list is to check those batteries in the smoke alarm," said Daron Evans, administrator for the Cassville Fire Protection District. "Make sure the alarms are working properly.

"People in the district who don't have fire alarms can call the office and we will come and install them," Evans said. "Many residents are not aware that we provide that service. We can even change batteries for area residents in the district."

Another important step to making sure this holiday season is a safe one is to make sure circuits are not overloaded.

"That is one of the biggest factor in fires at this time of year," Evans said. "When people have too many things plugged into one outlet it can, be very dangerous."

Evans recommends plugging holiday lights and decorations into a surge protector.

"If it has a circuit in it, it will trip out before a fire can start," Evans said.

Area residents using live trees should make sure they are kept far from a fireplace or heat source.

"Cut trees dry out within a few days," Evans said. "One spark can send a tree up in flames in a matter of seconds."

Along that line, Evans said those using space heaters should make sure they are in good working order and do not have open, exposed coils.

"Those older models with the open coils, anything could fall into that and start a blaze," Evans said. "Residents also need to make sure the space heaters don't overload electrical outlets or get too close to bed clothing or other flammable materials."

Those using electricity as a power source should also take care not to use extension cords that are too long for their intended use.

"A lot of people will try to hide the excess cord under their carpeting or by rolling it up and stashing it out of sight," Evans said. "They don't know that when an extension cord is rolled up tight like that, it can heat up, causing it to arc out and start a fire.

"Something similar happens when cords are hidden under carpets," he continued. "They build up heat and spark a fire."

Evans also warns residents about burning gift wrap.

"Don't burn it in the fireplace," he said. "It doesn't burn up completely. That is how a lot of flue fires start."

People using kerosene or propane heaters should take care to use them in a well ventilated area, such as a shop building.

"They are not meant to be used indoors" Evans said. "They can build up deadly carbon monoxide fumes.

"So far, we have not had any deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning or fire-related deaths," Evans said. "We are very fortunate in that regard.

"But the one thing I can't stress enough is to get those fire alarms installed or the batteries changed," Evans said. "Properly working smoke alarms save lives."

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