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Fire safety doesn’t take a holiday

The holidays are hectic: shopping for the perfect gift, cooking and baking, visiting family and friends. Itís easy for fire safety to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the season, but fires donít take a break ñ even at Christmas.The Falcon Fire Protection District offers these tips for a safe and happy holiday season.Smoke alarms, CO detectors and escape routesTest smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they work, and change batteries if necessary. Make sure all family members and guests know at least two ways out of every room in the house in the event of a fire.Christmas treesEvery year, about 240 home fires begin as Christmas tree fires, according to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association for 2005-2009. The fires, which involved both natural and artificial trees, resulted in an average of 13 deaths, 27 injuries and $16.7 million in property damage.Natural Christmas trees can quickly dry out if not properly maintained, especially in Colorado, where humidity is typically low. Dry trees can easily ignite and burn rapidly.Follow these tips to care for live trees:

  • Select a fresh tree with green, pliable needles that are difficult to pull from branches.
  • Cut 1 to 2 inches from the base of the trunk before placing the tree in its stand.
  • Add water to the tree stand, and be sure to add water every day to keep the tree hydrated.
  • Place the tree at least 3 feet away from heat sources, such as fireplaces or wood stoves, space heaters, heater vents, candles and lamps.
  • Never use lit candles on a Christmas tree!
  • Do not leave a live tree up for longer than two weeks.
  • After the holidays, move the tree out of the house as soon as possible. Take it to a recycling program or leave it for trash pickup. Do not leave old, dried-out trees in garages or near any buildings.
Artificial Christmas trees can be a safer alternative to live trees, but they should be labeled, certified or otherwise identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.For any type of Christmas tree:
  • Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
  • Turn off tree lights when leaving the house and before going to bed.
Holiday lights and decorationsTwinkling lights are beautiful to look at, but they can also be hazardous if not properly used and maintained. An NFPA report cited holiday lights and other decorative lighting as the cause of an average 150 fires per year in the U.S. during 2005-2009.To prevent electrical fires, use lights approved by an independent testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories. Replace light strings that have worn or cracked cords, broken or cracked sockets or loose bulb connections. Donít overload electrical outlets, and donít connect more than three strands of lights unless the manufacturer directions say itís safe to do so. Check light strings periodically; the wires should not be warm to the touch.Use nonflammable or flame-retardant decorations. Like Christmas trees, holiday decorations should be kept away from open flames and other heat sources. Make sure decorations do not block exits and doorways.Never put wrapping paper in a fireplace or wood stove. That kind of paper burns rapidly, creating a large fire and throwing off dangerous sparks and embers.CandlesInstead of lighting candles, consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look, smell and feel like the real thing. They also pose less of a fire hazard if accidentally left on.Keep lit candles out of the reach of children and pets. Make sure candles are in sturdy, stable holders and located in uncluttered places, where they canít be easily knocked down. Candles should be at least 12 inches from anything that can burn. More than half of fires caused by candles involve flammable objects too close to the flame.Never leave the house or go to bed with candles burning.CookingUnattended cooking is the leading cause of U.S. home fires at any time of year. Always stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. Use timers as a reminder when simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food; and check food regularly. Keep flammable items away from the stovetop, and turn it off if you leave the room. To prevent accidents, keep children at least 3 feet away from the stove and other food preparation areas.If a small fire starts in a pan on the cooktop, slide a lid over the pan and turn off the heat. Leave the pan covered until it has completely cooled. For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.If a cooking fire grows or spreads, get everyone out of the house and call 911. The gift of fire safetyLooking for a useful present for that hard-to-shop-for person? Think about giving a smoke alarm, a kitchen fire extinguisher or a carbon monoxide detector. They are relatively inexpensive gifts that can save lives.

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