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From the Fire Marshal: Tips For A Safe Holiday Season!

Winter holidays are a time for celebration and that means cooking, decorating and entertaining.  The Orange Fire Marshal’s Office offers some safety guidelines to ensure that the holidays will be pleasant for you and your family.

Cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and injuries and the leading cause is unattended cooking.  Keep anything that can catch fire away from the cooktop.  Stay nearby when frying, boiling or broiling food.  Have a lid available to smother small grease fires.  If baking or roasting, check regularly and use a timer.  In case of an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the oven door closed.

All decorations displayed throughout the home should be fire resistant or non-combustible and located a safe distance from any heat source.  If smoking is permitted in the home, provide a safe place for smokers to discard their cigarettes.  Place all used ashtrays in the sink and wet down the contents to prevent an accidental fire.  One of the most common causes of accidental home fires during the holiday season is unattended candles.  December is the peak time of year for candle fires.  Many times, candles are knocked over by children or pets, causing injuries and fires.  Before lighting any candle, secure it in a properly fitting holder with a wide base to catch the hot, dripping wax and to prevent the candle from tipping over.  Keep the wick trimmed to one-quarter inch and extinguish taper and pillar candles when the wick is within two inches of the holder.  Votives should be put out before the last half-inch of wax begins to melt.  Keep candles at least one foot from combustibles.  More than one-half of candle fires were started when flammable material was too close to the candle.  NEVER leave candles burning when leaving a room or going to sleep.  During a power outage, avoid carrying a lit candle.  Use flashlights.  As always, be sure matches, lighters and candles are out of the reach of children.  And, check that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly.

Before displaying any electrical decoration, be sure it is tested and approved by a facility such as Underwriter’s Laboratory (U.L) or Factory Mutual (F.M.).  Use only lights designed and approved for the outdoors when creating an exterior display.  Check all light cords and plugs for worn-out or exposed wiring.  Replace any damaged light strings or decorations.  Do not overload electrical circuits.  Use multi-outlet surge protector power strips when running multiple applications of decorative lights.  December and January are the months when most electrical, residential fires occur.  Most fires result from old wiring or faulty outlets.

The use of fireplaces and wood-burning stoves for alternative heating sources is at an all time high.  Have the fireplace or wood stove flue inspected and cleaned at least once a year.  Creosote build up is the number one cause of chimney fires.  Check for cracks in the mortar or deterioration of the piping before lighting a fire.  Don’t forget to open the flue.  Make sure that the safety screen or doors are in place to prevent sparks from igniting flammable furnishings or interior finishes.  Never use lighter fluid or any other flammable liquid to start a fire.  Use kindling and paper which is weighed down to prevent it from flying out of the chimney or fireplace.  Once the fire is out, put the cool ashes into a metal container with a lid, outside and away from the home.  The container should be placed on a non-combustible surface.  To prevent the build-up of carbon monoxide, keep a window slightly open to allow fresh air to enter the home.  Electric heaters should be at least three feet from any combustible materials.  The use of kerosene heaters is not recommended.

Christmas tree safety begins with the selection of a fresh tree that holds its needles.  Trim the trunk at least 1-inch above the original cut before placing the tree in a sturdy stand.  For the first watering, fill the stand with hot water to open up the sap channels so the tree consumes water efficiently.  Use cool water thereafter.  The tree may be kept as long as it remains fresh and moist.  Discard when it begins to lose needles and starts to dry.  Make sure artificial trees are labeled as fire retardant.  Keep a fire extinguisher handy and near an exit.  DO NOT attempt to extinguish a fully involved tree fire.  Leave the house and call 9-1-1.

Please follow these simple tips for a safe, happy holiday season.  For any questions or information about home fire safety, call the Orange Fire Marshal’s Office 203-891-4711, Monday to Friday, 8:00 am-4:30 pm or visit the website,

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