Officials urge safety during holidays

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The holidays should be a fun and festive time for everyone, but Troy officials are reminding residents that they can be dangerous too.

One of the major dangers of the holidays is an increase in structure fires, mostly due to issues stemming from holiday cooking.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, Thanksgiving is the leading day for home cooking fires in the United States, with more than three times as many home cooking fires that day as on any typical day of the year.

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“One of the most important things to remember is to never leave your cooking unattended,” said Troy Fire Marshal Brandy Cox. “Distractions get the best of us sometimes. We have cell phones, family is visiting, there’s a lot going on. The number one thing when you’re cooking is make sure you stay with it until it’s completed.”

Cooking is the leading cause of reported home fires year-round, according to the NFPA. Cooking incidents account for 48 percent of all U.S. home fires and 45 percent of reported home fire injuries, and unattended cooking is the leading cause of home cooking fires and fire deaths, with 15 percent of those fatalities attributed to clothing ignitions.

The use of turkey fryers poses another potential fire hazard this Thanksgiving.

“If you’re going to fry a turkey, make sure you use the fryer out away from any awnings or overhangs; you want to get out with it to keep it away from any structures that may catch on fire,” Cox said. “Make sure not to fill the fryer too full with cooking oil or when you lower the turkey in, it will overfill. Make sure the turkey completely is thawed and dry. Water will cause quite a reaction with the hot grease and you can get burned that way.”

Cooking isn’t the only danger associated with the holidays.

Thousands of deaths are caused by fires, burns and other fire-related injuries every year, and 12% of home candle fires occur in December, the NFPA reports. Increased use of candles and fireplaces, combined with an increase in the amount of combustible, seasonal decorations present in many homes means more risk for fire.

Electric heaters are also a particular concern each winter season.

“Electric space heaters plug those directly into a wall socket not into an extension cord or power strip because they draw a lot of electricity,” Cox said. “And make sure they are at least three feet away from flammable materials.”

Cox said live Christmas trees are sometimes an overlooked hazard in the home.

“If you’re using live trees, be sure before you set that tree up in your home to cut an inch to half inch off the trunk to get a fresh cut and keep water in the stand to keep it from drying out,” Cox said. “If the leaves start to turn brown or brittle, you need to think about removing the tree from the home. If one were to catch on fire, it will burn up pretty intensely and pretty quickly.”

There are some places in the city that are not even allowed to have a living tree inside, Cox said.

“Live trees not allowed in mercantile businesses or assembly structures such as restaurants and churches especially if they don’t have a fire sprinkler system,” Cox said.

Cox said LED Christmas lights are not a fire concern like the incandescent bulbs of the past, and recommends everyone upgrade to LED lights.

“They use less electricity and burn a lot cooler,” Cox said. “Overloading circuits is not a problem like it used to be if you’re using LED lights. Just make sure you use Christmas lights with a  UL logo on the box, those are safest to use particularly for live trees.”