3 Holiday Traditions Account for Home Fires
Minnesota Fire Officials say the week between Christmas and New Year's Day is the most fire-prone week of the year.
Last winter during that time, 172 structure fires caused nearly $3 million in property damage and even claimed some lives.
State Fire Marshal Jerry Rosendahl attributes 70-percent of those fires to cooking, open flames and heating. “The number of fires varies from year-to-year, but the causes do not,” says Rosendahl.
“The challenges remain: unattended stovetops, creosote-clogged chimneys, improper use of candles and space heaters, and people who burn wrapping paper in the fireplace, despite warnings.”
Rosendahl offers these tips to prevent a tragedy this holiday season:
- Never leave a hot stovetop or oven unattended. Grease fires start in seconds.
- Smother a stovetop grease fire with a pan lid (no oxygen, no fire) and turn off the burner. Never use water; it spreads the fire. Oven fires are rare, but can usually be handled by closing the oven door and turning off the oven.
- Leave three feet between a lit candle and anything that can burn. Make sure it’s on a solid base, in a place where children can’t reach it.
- Consider switching to battery-operated candles. They’re priced to compete with their wax counterparts, and they even come scented. The safety and peace-of-mind will be worth it.
- At the fireplace, remember that stockings are combustible; you need three feet between them and any heat source.
- Clear fireplace hearths and keep fireplace doors or screens closed to prevent sparks from escaping.
- Have chimneys inspected annually, especially if wood is burned regularly. Creosote build-up creates the possibility of a chimney fire.
- Never, ever burn gift wrap in a fireplace; it burns too fast and hot to be controlled.
- Keep space heaters at least three feet from walls, furniture, drapes and other combustible material.
- Inspect heaters before use ; make sure safety shields are in place and electrical components intact.
- Don’t place a space heater in a room with unsupervised children; that new stuffed animal or a cardboard box may be left too close to the heat source.
- Turn electric heaters off before leaving the house or retiring for the night.
Rosendahl adds that fire safety begins with purchasing, installing, and maintaining smoke alarms in the home. There should be one in the hallway outside sleeping rooms, and one on each level of the home. In addition, in new construction, there must be one within each sleeping room.
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