NEWS | Dec. 4, 2012

628th CES offers Holiday Fire Safety tips

By 628th Civil Engineer Squadron

The United States Fire Administration National Fire Protection Association and Joint Base Charleston Fire Emergency Services are working hard to remind everyone home fires are more prevalent in winter than in any other season. This is mainly due in part to an increase in cooking, heating and holiday decoration fires.

The following fire safety tips can help you maintain a fire-safe home this winter:

Cooking

The kitchen can be one of the most hazardous rooms in the house if you don't practice safe cooking.

Cooking occurs more during this season, increasing the potential for a fire on the stovetop. Although they can be small, cooking fires can damage cabinets and cause smoke damage throughout the house. If they're not extinguished quickly, the entire house may be destroyed.

· Always stay in the kitchen when cooking and keep a tight fitting, metal lid near the cooking area when using any oil or grease.

· Avoid placing items in the grease at high temperatures. Any amount of moisture on an item might create an explosion sending grease and fire over the stove. If this does occur, slide the lid over the pan and do not attempt to move it or put water on the fire as this will only increase the fire area. Use an ABC rated or dry chemical fire extinguisher on this type of fire if it's available. As a last resort, baking soda will work but increases your chance of injury as you have to get close to the fire to use it.

· If you intend to fry a turkey, follow the instructions on the fryer and keep it away from the house by at least 25 feet. Vinyl siding will melt and spread fire quickly if it catches fire.

· Keep anything that can catch fire, such as potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels or curtains, away from your stovetop.

· Keep the stove top, burners, and oven clean.

· Keep pets off cooking surfaces and nearby countertops to prevent them from knocking things onto the burner.

· Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire.

Heating

Each year, fires claim the lives of 3,500 Americans, injure 18,300, and costs billions in damage. People living in rural areas are more than twice as likely to die in a fire as those living in mid-sized cities or suburban areas. The misuse of wood stoves, portable space and kerosene heaters are especially common risks in rural areas. All heating equipment needs space. Keep combustibles at least three feet away from the heat source. Supervise children and have a three-foot "kid-free" zone around open fires and space heaters.

Electric Space Heaters

· Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories.

· Ensure the heater has a thermostat control mechanism and automatic switch if the heater falls/tips over.

· Heaters are not dryers or tables. Don't dry clothes or store objects on top of your heater.
· Plug space heaters directly into wall outlets and never into an extension cord or power strip.

· Always unplug your electric space heater when not in use.

Fireplaces

· Fireplaces regularly build up creosote in their chimneys and should be cleaned frequently and inspected for obstructions and cracks to prevent chimney and roof fires.

· Ensure the damper is open before starting any fire.

· Never burn trash, paper or green wood in your fireplace. These materials cause heavy creosote buildup and are difficult to control.

· Use a screen heavy enough to stop logs from rolling out and big enough to cover the entire opening of the fire place to catch flying sparks.

· Don't wear loose-fitting clothes near any open flame.

· Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed. Allow ashes to cool before disposing.

· Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from your home and any other nearby buildings. Never empty the ash directly into a trash can. Douse and saturate ashes with water first.

Candles

· On average, 42 home candle fires are reported every day. More than half of all candle fires start when flammables, including furniture, mattresses, bedding, curtains or decorations are too close to the flame.

· Avoid using lighted candles and consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look, smell and feel like real candles.

· Ensure candles are in sturdy metal, glass or ceramic holders and placed where they cannot be easily knocked down. Keep candles at least three feet from any combustible items.

· Never put candles on a Christmas tree.

· Extinguish candles after use and before going to bed and never leave burning candles unattended.

· Always keep candles out of the reach of children and away from pets.

Electrical

· During a typical year, home electrical problems account for 26,100 fires and one billion dollars in property losses. About half of all residential electrical fires involve electrical wiring. December and January are the most dangerous months for electrical fires. The bedroom is the leading area of fire origin for residential building electrical fires. However, electrical fires that begin in the living room or family room often result in the most deaths.

· Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately. Do not try to repair them yourself.

· Buy only appliances with a label of a recognized testing laboratory.

· Appliances should be plugged directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord. If no other option is available, use only surge protectors or power strips with internal overload protection.

· Always unplug small appliances when not in use.

Holiday Decorations

· The USFA estimates that 240 home fires involving Christmas trees, and another 150 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year. These fires resulted in 21 deaths and $25.2 million in direct property damage.

· Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets and excessive kinking or wear.

· Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory. Do not link more than three light strands unless the directions dictate it is safe.

· Make sure to periodically check the wires to ensure they are not warm to the touch. Do not leave holiday lights on unattended.

· All decorations should be nonflammable or flame -retardant and placed away from heat vents and open flames.

· If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.

· Ensure trees and holiday decorations do not block an exit way. In the event of a fire, time is of the essence. A blocked entry or exit way puts you and your family at increased risk.

· When selecting a tree for the holidays, needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches and should not break.

· The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has either been cut too long or dried out and is a fire hazard.

· Do not place the tree close to a heat source, including a fire place or heat vent. The heat will rapidly dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks.

· Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks.

· Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times to help keep the tree fresh longer.

· After the holidays, dispose of your tree in an acceptable manner for your municipality. Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.

· When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.

Always have working smoke alarms on every level of your home, test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries. If your house uses natural gas, carbon monoxides detectors are strongly encouraged to be placed near every sleeping area.

Know when and how to call for help. Remember to practice your home escape plan and know two ways out. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, contact the Joint Base Charleston Fire Prevention Office at 963-3121 or 764-7889.

Have a safe and wonderful Holiday Season!