Don’t let the holidays go up in flames

FireMarshal.jpgDec. 20, 2012 — When you’re in the holiday state of mind, fresh trees, colorful lights and scented candles can evoke feelings of comfort and happiness. Tucked amongst the tinsel on the tree and lights on the rooftop are safety hazards, including dried needles, frayed wires and combustible materials.
Based on data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), an estimated 240 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 150 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year. Together, these fires result in 21 deaths and $25.2 million in direct property damage.
The Cabarrus County Fire Marshal’s Office would like to remind residents to stay aware of fire dangers that are especially prevalent at this time of year.
“During the holiday season, our crews will typically see an increase in injuries to persons and damage to property,” said Cabarrus County Fire Marshal Steve Langer. “We want you to have a joyous and safe holiday. By paying attention to potential hazards and being proactive, you and your family can reduce the risk of fire over the holidays and throughout the year.”
Christmas tree safety:
  • If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, read the accompanying paperwork to make sure it is flame retardant.
  • Needles on fresh trees should be green, hard to pull back from the branches and should not break if the tree is fresh cut. The trunk of the tree should be sticky-to-the-touch.
  • Identify an old tree by bouncing the trunk on the ground. If needles fall off, the tree was cut too long ago, has probably dried out and can present a fire hazard. Once it’s set-up in the home, remember to keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
  • Do not place the tree near a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry the tree, which makes it easier to ignite by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree.
  • Discard the tree when it starts getting dry. Do not leave a fresh tree up for more than two weeks. The best way to dispose of a tree is to take it to a recycling center or have a community pick up service haul it away.

Holiday décor safety:

  • Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Periodically check wires for fray, bare spots, broken or cracked sockets and excessive kinking. The lights should not be warm-to-the-touch.
  • All decorations should be nonflammable or flame retardant and placed away from heat sources.
  • Do not place discarded wrapping paper into a fireplace. This can result in a very large fire, producing sparks and embers that may result in a chimney fire.
Candle safety:
  • Avoid using lighted candles if possible. If you do, ensure they are in sturdy metal, glass or ceramic holders and placed where they will not tip over.
  • Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Never allow children to play with matches, lighters or candles.
  • Never put candles on a Christmas tree.
  • Always keep candles clear of (and not under) combustible materials.
  • Extinguish candles after each use.
If a fire does occur, be Red Cross Ready and get out, stay out and call for help.
For more information on fire safety and prevention, contact the Cabarrus County Fire Marshal’s Office at 704.920.2143.