Be Fire Wise During This Holiday Season

Candles, Dry Trees Top Concerns For Firefighters

“Holidays are a time for a lot of good times,” Lt. Nick Ramsey said at the Lexington Community Watch meeting Nov. 20, reminding attendees of upcoming holiday gatherings with family, friends and loved ones. “Now imagine if a fire were to happen during those times,” he warned.

That evening, Ramsey led a holiday fire safety presentation on behalf of the Lexington Fire Department alongside Lexington Police Executive Secretary Vicki Pickle, who offered advice on holiday shopping safety to attendees. (Those shopping safety tips were the topic of a story in last week’s paper.)

Across the country, fire departments respond to an average of 160 Christmas tree fires each year, Ramsey said. “Out of about every 52 of those fires, one results in death.

“If you get a live tree, have a schedule to water it daily,” Ramsey suggested, to keep trees from drying out and creating fire hazards. “Check the lights and don’t string extension cords together.”

Outdoor lights also need to be powered by longer extension cords, Ramsey said, adding outdoor lights are fine as long as they are “rated for outdoor,” and purchasing covers for outdoor cords can ensure no moisture gets to them.

“Candles are the No. 1 cause of fire this time of year,” he continued. Ramsey explained of the average 82 fires a year starting from candles, roughly 12 percent occur in the month of December. As a precaution, Ramsey advised keeping candles at least 3 feet away from flammable objects like curtains and furniture. Switching to wax warmers or battery operated candles is a good alternative, he suggested.

Given the frequency of house fires in the wintertime, Ramsey explained that the holidays are a proper time to check up on smoke detectors at home.

“Check your smoke detectors with the time change,” he said. “If you’re unsure of the last time detector batteries were changed, change them. If you hear random chirping from your smoke detector, it means the batteries are dying or you have an aging detector.”

Ramsey said the Lexington Fire Department has a program for area residents to replace and install new smoke detectors free of charge.

“We want everyone to be safe,” he said. “Call the fire department and we will help.”

Once your smoke detector has been replaced, he said, it should last for 10 years. When asked how many smoke detectors are recommended in a two-story residence, Ramsey said at least one per floor in a central living area or hallway.

Gas logs, often used in the holiday season, also need to be tended to before use, Ramsey said. He suggested having ignitors serviced and cleaned by gas companies or any HVAC local business. Space heaters, another popular device in homes this time of year, should not be left unattended or plugged into extension cords.

“Thanksgiving is the No. 1 day of the year for kitchen fires,” Ramsey continued. Because holiday cooking can be full of distractions, Ramsey reminded attendees not to leave stovetop burners on or overload outlets with crock pots and kitchen devices.

“Never put water on a grease fire,” he said. “Use baking soda.”

Ramsey stressed the importance of having at least one fire extinguisher at home, which often has baking soda as an extinguishing ingredient.

“If a fire gets out of control, get out and call us.”

In closing, Ramsey advised having an “escape plan” for holiday gatherings.

“Have a special meeting place outside of the house,” he suggested in the event of a fire. With older family members and small children visiting during the holidays, it is best to discuss with everyone first thing what to do in the event of an emergency. Lay out rules for how to exit and where to meet when you’ve evacuated, Ramsey said.

“Be sure to have a designated driver for your holiday parties,” Ramsey added. “We respond to more than just fires this time of year.”

The News-Gazette

The News-Gazette Corp.
P.O. Box 1153
Lexington, VA 24450
(540) 463-3113

Email Us

Facebook Twitter

Latest articles