Fire prevention experts warn of holiday fire hazards

Published 12:20 am Monday, December 18, 2017

NATCHEZ — The smells of the holiday ham in the oven, candy cane candles and a fully decorated tree in the living room can add to the spirit of Christmas, but they can also contribute to house fires, fire prevention experts say.
Natchez Fire Department Chief Aaron Wesley said he wants families to be safe while participating in family festivities.
“As everyone gets busier during the holidays, we often become rushed, distracted or tired,” Wesley said. “That’s when home fires are more likely to occur.”
With a little added awareness and some adjustment to holiday cooking and decorating, the season can remain festive and safe for everyone.
“By taking some preventive steps, most home fires can be prevented,” said Conner Burns, NFD operations manager.
With unattended cooking as the leading cause of U.S. house fires and house fire injuries, Fire Marshal Captain Ryan Jones said to remain in the kitchen while you’re frying, grilling, boiling or broiling food. Cooking tips include:
Most cooking fires involve the stovetop, so keep anything that can catch fire away from it and turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even if it’s for a short period of time.
If you’re simmering, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.
Create a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food and drinks are prepared or carried.
Candles are widely used in homes throughout the holidays, and December is the peak month for house candle fires. The nonprofit National Fire Protection Association’s statistics show that two of every five house decoration fires are started by candles. Candle tips include:
The Natchez Fire Department encourages everyone to consider using flameless candles, which look and smell like real candles.
However, if you do use traditional candles, keep them at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and remember to blow them out when you leave the room or go to bed.
Use candle holders that are sturdy, w ill not tip over and are placed on uncluttered surfaces.
Avoid using candles in the bedroom where more than one-third of U.S. candle fires begin or other areas where people may fall asleep.
Never leave a child or pet alone in a room with a burning candle.
According to NFPA, U.S. fire departments respond to an average of 210 house structure fires caused by Christmas trees per year.
Three of every 10 of them are caused by electrical problems, and 1 in  result from a heat source that is too close to the tree. Advice for picking, placing and lighting the tree includes:
If you have an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.
If you choose a fresh tree, make sure the green needles don’t fall off when touched; before placing it in the stand, cut two inches from the base of the trunk. Add water to the tree stand, and be sure to water it daily.
Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit, and is at least three feet away from any heat source, such as fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, candles and heat vents or lights.
Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory, and make sure you know whether they are designed for indoor or outdoor use.
Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords, or loose bulb connections. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of light strands to connect.
Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving the house or going to bed.
After Christmas, get rid of the tree. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the house, garage or placed outside near the house.
Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.
“The holidays can quickly turn from joyful to tragic when a fire occurs,” Fire Marshal Captain Ryan Jones said. “By taking simple precautions, people can avoid potential fire hazards, and make this time of year a healthy and happy one.”
Visit and the Natchez Fire Department Training Center Facebook page for more information and safety tips.

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