MCFRS News Release
Deck the Halls Safely this Holiday Season
Most Home Fires are PREVENTABLE
Montgomery County, MD - Recent incidents have prompted fire officials to remind residents that the best way to fight a fire is to prevent it from happening. Fire Chief Richard Bowers is urging all residents to make safety a tradition this holiday season. “With the holidays and winter weather fast approaching, it is important for all residents to take steps to prevent fires. By taking a few extra precautions, you can make your home fire safe for the holiday season and for the rest of the year,” said Chief Bowers.
There are several things that families can do to reduce the risk of fire during the busy holiday season. Here are some fire safety tips to keep you and your family safe:
Christmas trees require special attention. When selecting a tree, freshness is important. Check the needles to make sure they are green and difficult to pull back from the branches. If the tree has been freshly cut, the needles should not break. Tap the tree on the ground several times and notice if any needles fall off. If they do, the tree is probably dried out and could be a fire hazard. Water your tree daily and do not place the tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent.
Holiday lights. Indoors or out, use only lights that have been tested by an approved testing laboratory for safety. All lights should be inspected for frayed wires, bare spots, broken or cracked sockets, excessive kinking or wear before plugging them in. Discard damaged sets of lights and avoid stringing more than three light strands together. Always turn off tree lights, indoors or outdoors, when leaving the house or before going to sleep.
Overloaded extension cords and outlets can present a serious fire safety hazard. Make sure that the extension cord is suitable for the electrical “load” needed. Do not place cords under furniture or rugs and do not plug two extension cords together to increase the total length. Demanding too much power from an extension cord risks overheating and fire. Be sure to read all packaging and instructions carefully when purchasing an extension cord and ensure it is UL listed.
Firing up the fireplace? Your garage, house or deck are all unsafe locations for ashes to cool and have been the site of many recent and devastating fires both locally and nationally. Take extreme care when disposing ashes and follow these tips:
- Allow all ashes to cool in place for several days, if possible.
- When it’s time to dispose of the ashes, transfer them to a metal container and wet them down. Only use an approved metal ash bucket that has a tight fitting metal lid.
- Store the container outside, away from structures, decks, fences, wood piles or other combustible materials.
- Never use a vacuum cleaner to pick up ashes. Don’t dispose of ashes outside on a windy day. The wind can whip up what may have seemed like cool embers, making them fiery hot and sending them traveling to ignite nearby combustibles.
Candle fires peak during the holiday season. Most holiday candle fires occur when people leave burning candles unattended or place candles too close to holiday decorations. Keep candles in a secure holder and on a safe surface away from children and pets. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue officials recommend the use of battery powered flashlights or lanterns in the event of a power outage.
Give space heaters space and ensure at least a 3-foot clearance from anything that can burn. Do not overload the electrical circuit or use extension cords with space heaters. Always stay in the room while a space heater is operating and turn it off when leaving the room or going to sleep. Follow all manufacturer recommendations and make sure your space heater meets all safety standards.
Be prepared – snowy roads and cold temperatures have arrived. Whether at home or on the road, be sure to have a simple emergency preparedness kit on hand. For suggestions on what to include in your kit, please visit our website at www.mcfrs.org/mcsafe.
Remember – having a working smoke alarm increases your chance of surviving a fire. Be sure every level of your home has a working smoke alarm, push the test button to ensure that it is working and change the batteries annually or as recommended by the manufacturer. Smoke alarms make great gifts, too!