Keep­ing safe from fire dur­ing hol­i­days

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

A home fire is es­pe­cially tragic dur­ing the hol­i­days. An apart­ment fire ear­lier this month in which an 83-year-old wom- an suf­fered from smoke in­hala­tion was caused by com­bustibles be­ing placed to close to a heat­ing el­e­ment in the wo­man’s bed­room. Ac­ci­den­tal fires such as this one are all too com­mon this time of year.

State Fire Mar­shal Brian S. Geraci has is­sued a re­minder to all Mary­lan­ders to check for fire safety where they live, where they work and ev­ery­where they go, es­pe­cially dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son.

At hol­i­day-themed events, blocked ex­its re­sult­ing from im­prop­erly placed chairs, ta­bles or even hol­i­day dec­o­ra­tions can re­sult in a de­lay in get­ting out quickly and safely. He sug­gests we all boost our safety aware­ness whether at church, school or even lo­cal eater­ies.

In the home, when us­ing por­ta­ble un­vented fuel-fired heaters, such as kerosene heaters, make sure to use only the rec­om­mended fuel spec­i­fied in the owner’s man­ual. Never use gaso­line. If it’s nec­es­sary to use an elec­tric space heater, use only one that has been ap­proved by an au­tho­rized test­ing lab­o­ra­tory such as UL, and plug the heater di­rectly into an out­let. Never use an ex­ten­sion cord or power strip, as they can eas­ily over­heat and cause a fire, and keep all por­ta­ble space heaters at least three feet away from any­thing com­bustible.

If heat­ing equip­ment fails, do not use kitchen stoves or ovens to sup­ply heat.

When us­ing fire­places, wood stoves or pel­let stoves, make sure the heat sources have been in­stalled and prop­erly ser­viced by trained tech­ni­cians in ac­cor­dance with state and lo­cal codes. Those pre­cau­tions al­low the equip­ment to work at its peak ef­fi­ciency, and lower the risk of a cat­a­strophic fail­ure. En­sure that the chim­ney is cleaned and in­spected be­fore use, and place ashes in a metal con­tainer with a lid.

Never leave can­dles burn­ing unat­tended. Ex­tin­guish their flame be­fore leav­ing the room. Con­sider us­ing safer, bat­tery-op­er­ated can­dles in­stead of flam­ing can­dles, Geraci says.

In the kitchen, pre­vent fires from start­ing on the stove by stay­ing in the kitchen and mon­i­tor­ing the food as it is be­ing pre­pared. If a fire oc­curs in a pot or pan on the stove, calmly place a lid on it and turn off the burner. Al­low the cook­ware to cool be­fore re­mov­ing it from the stove.

Fol­low all safety pre­cau­tions and man­u­fac­turer’s in­struc­tions when us­ing a turkey fryer.

Cut trees placed in the home for Christ­mas are a con­stant con­cern to the state agency and fire­fight­ers, be­cause of the ex­treme flamma­bil­ity of a tree that has lost its mois­ture. Spe­cial pre­cau­tions need to be ob­served, in­clud­ing se­lect­ing a tree with green nee­dles that do not fall too eas­ily from the branches, and the trunk should be sticky to the touch. Place the tree in a lo­ca­tion away from heat sources, and add wa­ter ev­ery day dur­ing the rec­om­mended two-week limit on dis­play­ing a cut tree in­doors. Re­move the tree shortly af­ter the hol­i­days. A good dis­posal op­tion is to re­cy­cle trees to one of Charles County’s 12 drop off sites, where the trees will later be ground into mulch.

In­spect tree light­ing for frayed or dam­aged wiring and check for cracked sock­ets. Re­place worn strands with new sets, and fol­low man­u­fac­turer’s guide­lines when at­tach­ing ad­di­tional strands. Al­ways un­plug or switch off all hol­i­day lights be­fore leav­ing home or go­ing to bed.

And if a fire does oc­cur in­side a home dur­ing the hol­i­days, the same safety fun­da­men­tals as the rest of the year still ap­ply. Close the doors be­hind while go­ing out­side, call 911 and never go back in­side a burn­ing home. Tell ar­riv­ing first re­spon­ders if any­one is still in­side.

As al­ways, com­mon sense and cau­tion will con­trib­ute to a fire-safe hol­i­day sea­son.

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