Holiday fire safety a seasonal concern

WESTFIELD – With the holiday season beginning, local residents should be aware of the special hazards of the season and use “common sense” to stay safe, says Mary Regan, the city’s fire chief.
Regan said that there are a number of potential hazards specific to the season with “candles being the most dangerous.”
She said “That’s the area we’ve experienced the most fire growth” and said that the holiday season is the time of year that candles are most used.
Candles should never be left unattended, she said, and explained that problems which might be quickly snuffed out can become serious if they are not immediately known. She said that if a candle gets knocked over by a pet or falls from a candle holder and nobody sees it, a serious fire can develop quickly. “It’s the time period that lets it get out of control” she said.
And care should be taken to insure a candle, or any other heat source, is not too close to decorations or other potential fuel sources. Three feet of separation between a candle and anything that might burn is a good rule of thumb, she said.
And that same three feet rule should be applied to fireplaces, she said, to ensure that there is nothing flammable on the hearth. She also said that fireplaces, especially those which are only used for holiday occasions, should be checked. Chimneys and flues should be cleaned and fireplace screens should be available and used.
Seasonal heating devices should be appropriate for use indoors, Regan said, and pointed out that grills designed for al fresco cooking should never be used indoors. She said that the law prohibits the use of grills inside and said that deep fat fryers for turkeys should also be used exclusively outside.
“There’s nothing wrong with a fried turkey” she said, if directions are followed, and pointed out that the fryers should not be overfilled because flammable oils can spill when a turkey is dropped into the hot oil.
Christmas tress, she said, should be watered regularly to keep them from becoming dry as tinder and a fire hazard.
“They recommend the LED lights because they don’t get so hot” she said and cautioned about connecting too many strings of lights together. She said that the packaging on holiday lights stipulates how many strings of lights can be connected together and said “The best thing is to use a safety strip that’s going to pop the circuit if they get overloaded.”
Outdoor lighting can require extra care to prevent overloading electrical circuits, she said, as many homeowners have limited outside electrical outlets and it can be tempting, particularly with ambitious displays, to plug everything into one or two outlets. Even if the circuits are not overloaded, she said, overloaded extension cords can become hot and leaves or other flammable material in contact with the cords can be ignited.
Carbon monoxide detectors should be checked, since extraordinary heating devices may be used during the holidays and the batteries in them – and in smoke detectors – should be replaced, if they were not swapped out when clocks were changed with the end of daylight savings time in November.
Smoke detectors, she said, are the key to fire safety.
“You can be careful and check everything but the most important thing is to have smoke detectors” she said since they can give a resident the few minutes warning that can be vital to prevent injury and destruction.
“The smoke detector is the most important thing in fire safety” she said.

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