Between 2003 and 2007, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 250 fires per year started by Christmas trees, and another 170 started by Christmas decorations. Between 2003 and 2006, an estimated 14,800 residential structure fires were started by candles. In that same time period there were 160 civilian deaths, 1,340 civilian injuries, with property damages in excess of $471 million. While these numbers are pretty grim, they could be a lot worse if it were not for the well-trained men and women in fire departments all over this country. To avoid a disastrous holiday season with unnecessary risk, this article provides a few tips that can make this time of year bit safer. We all love our public safety personnel but would rather not see the lights in front of our house on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.
There are many things to watch for this time of year, and none of them include a corpulent man coming down the chimney, however the chimney is a good place to start. You should have your chimney cleaned on a regular basis to prevent the buildup of creosote. This substance is the cause of many chimney fires every year. Smoke alarms should be checked around the holidays, as half of all home fires occur from December through February. Many of our residents have pets. If you have a pet that likes to chew, be very careful about Christmas tree lights. I had a dog chew up a string of lights one year and, luckily for us, we only had to replace the lights as they were not plugged in at the time. Scented and unscented Candles can be a great way to set a festive mood, but make sure to keep your decorations away from the candles. Many Christmas decorations are flammable.
I love the smell of a fresh cut Christmas tree in my home. If you decide to keep a live tree, like I do, following a few simple safety tips can avoid a house fire. Always keep water in the base because wet trees are simply more difficult to burn. However, even a well hydrated pine tree will burn. Never put lit candles on a tree and always ensure the light strings are in good shape and designed for indoor use. Never place your tree near a heat source. Heating ducts or baseboard heaters can dry out the tree, even if water is in the base. Electricity in wires and fixtures or overloaded electrical outlets causes heat to build up. While it is festive to spruce up your home with many beautiful decorations, remember to never block exits with them. Keep all exits, including windows, free from obstructions. If you are having company, advise your guests of where they might be able to exit should a fire start. Friends and family are a precious gift; property can be replaced.
These are only a few suggestions that the Jerome Fire Department would like passed on for a safe holiday season. There are many more tips that can help you keep this season a safe and happy time of year. If you would like more tips, the Jerome Fire Department has more tips, information, and statistics available and can be reached at 324-2323.
From me, the Police Department, the Fire Department, and the entire City of Jerome, have a safe and happy holiday season.