By Battalion Chief Gary Lohr for The Island Connection
The holiday season is already upon us, and the time spent with family and friends can provide many cherished memories that will last us a lifetime. The members of the St. Johns Fire District want to wish you a happy, fire safe holiday, and want to take this opportunity to give you a few tips to help make the holidays safer for you and your family.
If you are cooking a holiday meal then remember that many house fires start by leaving food unattended while cooking.
It’s easy to get distracted; if you have to leave the kitchen then take a pot holder with you as a reminder that you have something on the stove. Make sure to keep a kitchen fire extinguisher that’s rated for all types of fires and has a full charge. If you’re planning to deep-fry your holiday turkey, do it outside, on a flat, level surface at least 10 feet from the house. Planning on using candles to decorate?
Then it’s a good idea to maintain about a foot of space between the candle and anything that can burn. Set candles on sturdy bases or cover with hurricane globes. Never leave flames unattended.
Before bed, walk through each room to make sure candles are blown out. For atmosphere without worry, consider flameless LED candles.
Ok Clark, so you’re going to hang a few decorative lights. Remember to inspect light strings and throw out any with frayed, cracked wires, or broken sockets. Don’t run more than three strings of lights end to end. Extension cords should be in good condition, grounded, and UL-rated for indoor or outdoor use.
Check outdoor receptacles to make sure the ground fault interrupters don’t trip. If they trip repeatedly, that’s a sign that they need to be replaced. When hanging lights outside, avoid using nails or staples, which can damage the wiring and increase the risk of a fire. Instead, use UL-rated clips or hangers.
If you have a fireplace then make sure you have it inspected to see if it needs cleaning. Screen the fireplace to prevent embers from popping out onto the floor or carpet, and never use flammable liquids to start a fire in the fireplace.
Only burn seasoned wood or approved, manufactured logs for indoor use—no wrapping paper. When cleaning out the fireplace, put embers in a metal container and set them outside to cool for 24 hours before disposal.
Finally lets talk about your Christmas Tree. It takes less than 30 seconds for a dry tree to engulf a room in flames. To minimize risk, buy a fresh tree with intact needles, get a fresh cut on the trunk, and water it every day. A well-watered tree is almost impossible to ignite. Keep the tree away from heat sources, such as a fireplace or radiator, and out of traffic patterns.
If you’re using live garlands and other greenery, keep them at least three feet away from heating sources. No matter how well the tree is watered, it will start to dry out after about four weeks, so take it down after the holidays. Artificial trees don’t pose much of a fire hazard; just make sure yours is flame-retardant. Have a joyous and safe holiday season.