Winter holidays bring Livonia families and friends together to celebrate with each other. This also means a greater risk for fire. Twenty-five percent of home decoration fires happen in December. Following a few simple tips will help to ensure a happy and fire-safe holiday season.
When choosing holiday decorations, look for those that are flame-resistant or flame-retardant. This may mean a bit of looking at the fine print, but it is time well-spent when holiday dangers are lurking in your home. Some decorative lighting is meant for indoor use, and some for outdoor use. Make sure you use them the way they were meant to be used. Replace any string of lights with worn, cracked or broken cords. Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so that the cords do not get damaged during the season. Consider the traffic flow in your home and don't block exits with holiday decorations.
Candles are often used in decorating and to give the home a warm feeling. More than half of the December home decoration fires are started by candles. If you use candles, make sure they are lit and watched by adults, and are placed only in rooms where adults can easily keep track of them while entertaining. Keep candles away from any combustible materials so check for blowing drapes and other drafts before placing your candles. Keep the candles away from the main travel paths so children and pets will not accidentally bump into them. Place candles on large, sturdy holders and never allow candles in bedrooms, where they often start fires when occupants fall asleep. After lighting the candles, put the matches and/or lighters high up and out of the sight and reach of children.
Ask smokers to smoke outside. Most fire deaths are due to smoking materials, as these products tend to smolder for long periods of time before they break out into flames. This is often after family members have gone to sleep. Today, most smokers don't mind stepping outside to smoke. If you do allow smokers to smoke inside, have large, sturdy ashtrays for them to use and make sure you check carefully for dropped cigarettes before going to bed.
Give your home a quick check before going out and again when going to bed at night. While this is a good habit all year long, it is especially important during the holiday season. Check to make sure the stove and oven are turned off, all candles are out and turn off the decorative lights for the night.
Regardless of whether you use a real or artificial tree in your decorating, make sure it doesn't block the exits in your home, keep it well away from heating sources, turn the lights off when you leave for the evening or when going to bed and keep your real tree well-watered. For a demonstration on Christmas tree fire safety, go to the “Fire Department” section of the city website (www.ci.livonia.mi.us/) and find the “Christmas Tree Fire Safety” video piece under the “Educational Videos” heading.
When doing holiday cooking and baking, make sure you know where the fire extinguisher is and how to use it. Remember there are several ways to put out unwanted kitchen fires besides fire extinguishers. That can mean putting the cover or lid on a burning pot or pan; baking soda will also extinguish small kitchen fires.
Many of us look forward to the holiday season all year long. Let's make all the memories good ones by putting fire safety on the front burner.
Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.