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Fire Safety

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:

Pick a "safe" tree

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.

Choose "Fire Resistant" labeled artificial trees and decorations

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.

Pick a safe place for your tree

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).

Donít overload circuits

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.

Before those lights go up

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.

Whether indoor or outdoor lights, use only lights that have been ULģ-approved

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.

Never run extension cords through doorways, under rugs, or through any high-traffic areas

This can damage the insulation and wire inside, causing a fire hazard.

Always disconnect all decorative lights before you go to bed or leave the house

Lights can short and cause a fire.

Donít hang light strings in any way that might damage the cordís insulation

Never use nails or tacks. Use only insulated staples to hold strands in place, or run the strings through hooks.

Be careful with candles

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.

Fireplace safety: Never burn gift wrap or other coates papers or boxes

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.

Be extra careful when smoking

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.

Have a fire escape plan

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.

Working smoke alarms save lives

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:

Learn More

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:


Mountain State Centers for Independent Living