Holiday Fire Safety
by Carol Nolte, Deputy State Fire Marshal
With the winter holidays on the ways, one of the best gifts you can give your family is a safe home. Here are some tips from the State Fire Marshal's Office:
If youíre buying a cut tree for Christmas, check for freshness. Look for good green color and needles that are hard to pull from the branches and do not break. Shedding, brittle needles and a faded green color are signs of a dry tree. Keep your tree fresh by placing it in a stand that holds water. Check the water level every day.
This does NOT mean these items wonít catch fire - it does mean that they should resist burning and extinguish fairly quickly in the event of fire.
Keep your tree out of traffic areas and away from doorways - exits should always be clear. Also, make sure thereís a "safety zone" all around your tree - at least 3 feet away from fireplaces, wood stoves and other heat sources (candles included).
With the extra lights and holiday decorations, donít be tempted to plug too many items into your outlets. Electrical overloads are among the most common causes of fires in the home. Unplug items that arenít in use, and never ignore a tripped fuse.
Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Donít forget to check your extension cords, too. Throw out any damaged lights or cords.
If the lights youíre using havenít been tested by Underwritersí Laboratories or other national testing lab, you run a very real risk of fire - your lights havenít been manufactured in accordance with recognized safety standards.
This can damage the insulation and wire inside, causing a fire hazard.
Lights can short and cause a fire.
Never use nails or tacks. Use only insulated staples to hold strands in place, or run the strings through hooks.
Display candles safely by keeping them in stable, non-flammable holders. Keep these items away from materials that will burn such as other decorations or curtains. Also keep them away from children and pets.
Burning papers and other improper fuels in the fireplace is a major cause of chimney fires. Always use a firescreen to keep sparks from escaping onto nearby rugs, furniture or other combustibles.
Careless smoking is a leading cause of fire deaths at any time of the year, but the risk goes up during holiday parties and gatherings. Check carefully for any smoldering smoking materials (between cushions, under furniture, etc.) before going to bed. Never smoke around the tree or flammable decorations.
Every family member should know at least two ways out of each room and know to get out of the house whenever the smoke alarm alerts. Decide ahead of time on where to meet once everyone is out. The meeting place should be well-lit and a safe distance out of the way of emergency responders but close enough to be accounted for.
Cold weatheróand holidays--can bring increased risk of fire. Having working smoke alarms in your home can double your chances of surviving a fire. If you havenít changed the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms this year, now is a good time.
To learn more about the Office of the WV State Fire Marshall please visit their Web site: www.wvfiremarshal.org.
Read the West Virginia Fire Safety Resource eGuide, a training tool to provide resources and guidelines to keep West Virginians safe; and, to address the specific needs of people with disabilities and the elderly as it relates to fire safety.
To learn more about living independently and safely, please visit MTSTCIL's fire safety online skills training class at: Fire Safety
Fore more information on home safety, visit these Web sites:
For more information, contact:
WV State Fire Marshal's Office
Phone: (304) 558-2191, Ext. 53223