Holiday fire safety

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offers reminders to keep folks fire-safe as they wind down the holiday season. Roughly one-third of home fires and home fire deaths occur in December, January and February.

Although Christmas tree fires are uncommon, when they do occur, they are often serious; one out of every 21 reported Christmas tree fires results in a fatality. One-third of Christmas tree fires occur in January.

The longer Christmas trees are in the home, the more they dry out and increasingly become fire hazards. Removing the tree from your home and properly disposing of it as soon as possible will minimize the risk of a treasured holiday season becoming a tragic one.

Dried-out trees should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home. Check with your local community to find a recycling program. Also, remove outdoor holiday lights.

As you unplug and store electric holiday decorations, remember that practicing safety now can keep decorations in working condition and prevent potential hazards from occurring next year.

To unplug electric decorations, use the gripping area provided on the plugs. Never pull the cord to unplug a device from electrical outlets. Doing so can harm the cord's wire and insulation and even lead to an electrical shock or fire.

As you're putting away electrical light strings, take time to inspect each for damage. Throw out light sets if they have loose connections, broken sockets or cracked or bare wires.

Do not place a damaged set of lights back into the storage box for next year's use.

Wrap each set of lights and put them in individual plastic bags, or wrap the lights around a piece of cardboard.

Store electrical decorations in a dry place where they cannot be damaged by water or dampness. Also, keep them away from children and pets.

More than half of U.S. home heating fires happen in December, January and February. Heating equipment was involved in an estimated 66,100 reported home structure fires in 2008, causing 480 civilian deaths, 1,660 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage.

Please take all necessary fire safety precautions this holiday season.