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“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.”
– Shirley Temple  
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  Volume No. 14 Issue No. 12 December 2017  

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  Firefighters (and Santa Claus!) like clean chimneys
  By Robin Widmar

   “Peter Piper told my teacher there won’t be any more Santa Claus, because people didn’t clean their chimneys on Chimney-Cleaning Day.” - From the New York Teachers’ Monograph, 1916
   
   Although there is no longer a designated “chimney cleaning day” on U.S. calendars, keeping chimneys cleaned and in good working order can reduce the risk of destructive chimney fires. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that between 2009 and 2013, a yearly average of almost 18,000 U.S. residential structure fires involved fireplaces, chimneys and chimney connectors. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission puts that number at more than 22,000.
   
   Of these fires:
  • About 94 percent involved solid-fueled equipment such as wood-burning fireplaces or stoves and their chimneys.
  • “Failure to clean” contributed to more than two-thirds (68 percent) of the fires.
  • Three-fifths of the fires occurred in December, January and February.

   Why a clean chimney matters
   Anything that burns produces byproducts, including smoke, gases, water vapor and particulates. Chimneys allow these byproducts to vent safely from a fireplace or wood stove to the outside of the structure.
   
   In the case of fireplaces or stoves that burn wood or coal, condensation of smoke particulates can occur on the inner surface of the chimney, which tends to be relatively cooler than the heated smoke. Over time, this residue accumulates and forms a highly combustible substance known as creosote. A chimney fire happens when the high temperatures inside the flue causes ignition of the creosote buildup.
   
   Some chimney fires create a loud noise or produce visible flame, while others go undetected until an inspection reveals that one has occurred. Regardless, a chimney fire can cause significant damage, both to the chimney and to the structure.
   
   Preventing creosote buildup
   The Chimney Safety Institute of America website (http://www.csia.org/) lists the following conditions that contribute to creosote buildup.
  1. Restricted air supply caused by
    • Closing the glass doors while the fire is burning
    • Failing to open the damper wide enough
    • Lack of sufficient airflow to rapidly move heated smoke up the chimney (The longer smoke lingers in the chimney, the more likely creosote will form.)
    • Closing a wood stove’s air inlets too soon or too much
  2. Burning unseasoned or “green” wood
    • Firewood should be split and allowed to dry for a minimum of six months to one year.
  3. Overloading the firebox of a wood stove to achieve a longer burn time
  4. Cooler than normal chimney temperatures

   Additional fireplace and wood stove safety tips
   Fireplaces and wood stoves can provide warmth and a pleasant ambience, especially during the holidays. But their use involves fire, so it is important to keep safety in mind as well. Here are some simple tips from NFPA and CSIA.
  • Have fireplaces, wood stoves and chimneys cleaned and inspected at least once a year (more often if burning a lot of wood) by a qualified professional chimney service technician.
  • Keep exterior tree branches at least 15 feet away from chimneys.
  • Keep furniture and combustible items at least 3 feet away from fireplaces and wood stoves.
  • Burn only wood - not trash, treated lumber or construction scraps.
  • Use a sturdy screen in front of open fireplaces to catch sparks.
  • Maintain a 3-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires
  • Install and maintain smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Test them once a month.
  • Make sure ashes are completely cool before putting them in a metal container.
  • Store ash containers a safe distance away from the home and where it cannot be accidentally knocked over by wind or animals.

   The members of the Falcon Fire Protection District wish everyone a safe, peaceful and enjoyable holiday season!
   
   
Stay connected with the FFPD
   Website: http://falconfirepd.org
   Facebook: Falcon Fire Department
   Twitter: @FalconFireDept
  
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  Safety Tip
  Slow down and breathe
  By Robin Widmar

   Traveling to visit family. Shopping for that perfect gift. Hosting guests. Attending holiday parties. December can be a hectic time of year, and the influx of stress, fatigue and mental distractions can lead to accidents at home, at work and on the road.
   
   Statistics from global safety company SafeStart (http://safestart.com) estimate that 25 percent of traffic fatalities result from distracted driving. The No. 1 cause (62 percent) of distracted driving? “Generally distracted or ‘lost in thought,’” which means a driver’s mind wanders long enough to cause a collision.
   
   Another study published in the Feb. 22, 2016, online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed the risk of traffic crashes significantly rises when drivers are emotional behind the wheel (angry, sad, tearful or agitated).
   
   With an uptick in the number of traffic accidents in the Falcon area this year, firefighters offer these tips to stay safe on the roads:
  • Put down the phone. Texting while driving is illegal in the state of Colorado. Do not let a moment of distraction cause a lifetime of regret.
  • Stay focused while behind the wheel. Drivers sometimes forget they are piloting a ton or more of steel, often at high speeds.
  • Obey traffic laws and speed limits.
  • Yield to emergency vehicles. Remember this phrase: “Pull to the right for sirens and lights.”
  • Do not drive after drinking or partaking in recreational drugs such as marijuana. Use a sober and straight designated driver.
  • Avoid taking the wheel when angry or upset.

   Slow down, take a deep breath and enjoy this holiday season safely and responsibly.
  
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