Christmas season is also fire season

Published 2:00 am Thursday, December 10, 2015

As of Tuesday, 85 people in Alabama have lost their lives to house fires.

Steve Holmes, public information officer for the State Fire Marshal’s Office, said those lives could have been prevented if wise decisions had been made ahead of time.

“With the Christmas season upon us, we all need to make wise decisions regarding fire prevention ahead of time rather than taking a chance on a fire that could destroy property or take lives,” Holmes said. “Festive lighting, windowsill candles and ornamented Christmas trees are potential fire risks if handled improperly.”

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Holmes said holiday lights and other decorative lighting are involved in an estimated annual average of 160 home fires a year and cause nine deaths, 16 injuries and $8.4 million in direct property damage.

“This is a happy and exciting time of year but it can quickly turn into a tragic time unless we make wise choices ahead of time,” Holmes said. “A wise choice would be to throw away any strings of tree lights that are worn, frayed or kinked. A wise choice would be to purchase a longer, heavy-duty extension cord rather than piggyback several 79-cent cords. Wise choices would be to keep your Christmas tree well-watered – a dry tree is a dangerous tree — and to turn off the Christmas tree lights before you go to bed to eliminate that potential heat source. There are many wise choices that we can make that will help ensure the safety of our homes during the Christmas season.”

Holmes said to be sure to get a power strip that has a QL or similar approval rating for the number of plug-ins you plan to use. A power strip with a breaker is also a wise choice.

“Candles are beautiful but they are open flames and can easily ignite anything that can burn,” Holmes said. “Keep candles at least three feet from anything that is combustible – cloth, wood or plastic and never leave a candle or an oil lamp unattended.”

Nearly 50 percent of house fires are cooking/kitchen fires.

“With all of the kitchen activity at this time of the year, we need to practice kitchen safety and that includes keeping a close watch on anything cooking on the stove,” Holmes said.

“Grease catches fire easily. Some people store their cooking oil in the cabinet above the stove. If a fire starts on the stovetop and the cooking oil above catches fire, it’s going to be bad.”

It’s wise to watch children closely in the kitchen because the kitchen has the potential for accidents to occur such as boiling pots, hot pans, scalding water and sharp knives.

“The State Fire Marshal’s Office encourages everyone make wise decisions ahead of time so that Christmas celebrations go off without a hitch,” Holmes said.