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Safety first fire district offers tips for holiday season posted on 12/01/2022

As members of the Mountain community busy themselves decorating and preparing to celebrate the festive time of the year, Hoodland Fire District (HFD) Division Chief/Fire Marshal Scott Kline urged residents to keep fire safety in mind throughout the holiday season.

“This should be a happy and exciting time of the year, but don’t let that distract you from keeping your family and friends safe from fire,” Kline said. “By following a few important safety tips, you can help ensure your holidays remain happy.”

Holiday cooking, decorations, candles and Christmas trees all contribute to an increase in house fires nationally during the holiday months and winter according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Cooking fires, often caused by unattended stoves or distracted behavior, are a leading cause of home fires around the holidays. A 2020 NFPA report stated that Christmas Day is the second-leading day of the year for home cooking fires; Christmas Eve is the fifth.

“U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 790 home structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees, in 2015-19,” according to NFPA.org. More than two of every five decoration fires happen because decorations are placed too close to a heat source.

Candles offer a decorative glow to the holidays but pose a significant risk for house fires. Kline stated that Mountain residents are urged to not leave candles unattended and make sure they are not near combustible materials. During the month of December candles start 45 percent of home decoration fires.

Almost three times as many candle fires occur on Christmas Day as the daily average.

Christmas tree fires account for a smaller percentage of holiday fires, but a dry Christmas tree can ignite and spread a fire in minutes, causing greater damage to a structure.

A live Christmas tree burn of a dry tree conducted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) documented that flashover, or a rapid spreading of fire from one surface to another because of intense heat, can occur in less than one minute, as compared to a well-watered tree, which burns at a much slower rate.

Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in almost half of home Christmas tree fires. Nearly one in five Christmas tree fires were started by decorative lights.

HFD suggested that Mount Hood residents follow these guidelines to assure a safe and joyful holiday:

Tree care and Decorating Tips

– Choose a fresh, healthy tree with a deep-green color and flexible needles.

– When you get the tree home, cut off the bottom two inches of the trunk. This creates a fresh, raw cut for the tree to soak up water.

– Water your tree daily. A tree may consume between a quart and a gallon of water per day.

– Place the tree at least three feet away from any heat source such as a fireplace, woodstove, heating duct or radiator.

– Use only noncombustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree.

– Always unplug tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

– If using a woodstove or fireplace, keep it always screened. Keep ribbons, boughs, and other decorative materials at least three feet away.

– After the holiday season, promptly dispose of the tree and other greenery before it dries out.

– Burning a tree in a stove or fireplace is dangerous; proper disposal includes recycling or pick-up by a disposal service.

– Maintain your holiday lights. Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots and broken or cracked sockets.

– Do not overload electrical sockets. Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe.

Candle Safety

A safe alternative is to use battery operated, flameless candles which can look, smell and feel like real candles. However, if you decide to use real candles, follow these safety tips:

– Never leave a burning candle unattended. Extinguish candles when you go to bed, leave a room or before leaving the house.

– Keep candles away from things that burn. Keep candles at least one foot away from combustibles including clothing, curtains, upholstered furniture, greenery and decorations.

– Always use a sturdy non-combustible (metal, glass or ceramic) candleholder. Make sure the candleholder is big enough to catch dripping wax.

– Place candles out of reach of small children and pets.

– Keep candles out of high traffic areas.

– Trim wicks to one-quarter inch before lighting.

– Avoid candles with items embedded in them such as twigs, flowers or leaves. These items can ignite or even explode.

– Always use a flashlight (not a candle) for emergency lighting.

General fire safety

– Make sure you have working smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside each sleeping area and in each bedroom.

– Make a home fire escape plan and practice it with the whole family.

– Keep escape routes clear of clutter so you can escape quickly in case of fire.

For more information on holiday fire safety, please visit https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire-causes-and-risks/Seasonal-fire-causes/Winter-holidays and https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/holiday.html.

By Ben Simpson/MT

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