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Keep your holidays from going up in flames with RFD fire safety tips



Many residents engage in holiday activities that serve as some of the leading causes of home fires. Decorations, Christmas trees and candles significantly contribute to home fires, especially since residents are trying to accomplish so many holiday traditions.

“As everyone gets busier during the holidays, we often become rushed, distracted or tired,” says Tray Palmer, fire prevention captain for the city of Reno Fire Department. “That’s when home fires are more likely to occur.”

With a little added awareness and some minor adjustments to holiday cooking and decorating, the season can remain festive and safe for everybody. “By taking some preventive steps and following simple rules, most home fires can be prevented,” says Palmer.

Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, so take these safety precautions:

  •   Stay in the kitchen while frying, grilling or broiling food.
  •   Keep flammable items away from the stove top.
  •  Turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even if it’s for a short period of time.
  •   When simmering, boiling, baking or roasting, check food regularly and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.
  •    Create a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food and drinks are prepared or carried.

December is the peak month for home candle fires. The nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistics show that two of every five home decoration fires are started by candles. One third of the fires start in bedrooms or other areas where people sleep.

The Reno Fire Department recommends these safety precautions when decorating with candles:

  • Use flameless candles, which look and smell like real candles.
  • When using a candle with a burning flame, keep it at least 12 inches from anything that can burn.
  • Blow out candles when you leave the room or go to bed.
  • Use candle holders that are sturdy, won’t tip over and are placed on uncluttered surfaces.
  • Avoid using candles in the bedroom.
  • Never leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle.

According to NFPA, fire departments respond to 230 home structure fires caused by Christmas trees each year. One of every three of them is caused by electrical problems, and one in five results from a heat source that’s too close to the tree.

The Reno Fire Department offers the following advice for picking, placing and lighting the tree:

  • If you have an artificial tree, be sure it’s labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.
  • If you choose a fresh tree, make sure the green needles don’t fall off when touched. Before placing the tree in the stand, cut one to two inches from the base of the trunk. Add water to the tree stand and be sure to water it daily.
  • Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit and is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, candles, heat vents and lights.
  • Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory and make sure you know whether they are designed for indoor or outdoor use.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini-string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
  • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving the home or going to bed.
  • After Christmas, get rid of the tree. Dried out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside the home.
  • Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and to make them last longer.

By following these fire prevention tips and measures, the Reno Fire Department says you can greatly reduce the risk of fire in your home and enjoy a safe holiday season. “The holidays can quickly turn from joyful to tragic when a fire occurs,” says Palmer. “By taking simple precautions, people can avoid potential fire hazards and make this time of year a healthy and happy one.”

Visit www.nfpa.org/holiday for more information and safety tips.

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