It’s unfortunate, but holiday time often sees an increase in the number of building fires reported across the country. Businesses and homes can be affected. Holiday lights, Christmas trees, candles, turkey fryers, and ovens left unattended can all cause building fires.
There are things you can do to help prevent fires and keep your family safe. To decrease the likelihood of a fire be sure you have high-quality smoke alarms on each floor of your house or positioned every so often in your workplace. Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and office breakroom. You may also want to put them near fireplaces and garages.
What to Do If…
You’re Experiencing a Building or House Fire
Other things you can do to prevent fires include:
Never plug space heaters into extension cords or power strips. Plug them directly into the wall outlet in an area free of combustibles. Never leave them running overnight.
Be wary of gas leaks. Never smoke or light matches near gas lines. If you smell gas, do not turn on light switches or introduce open flame to the area. Shut off the gas supply and call the gas company.
Every year about 200 Christmas trees go up in flames. It takes just seconds for a tree to ignite and catch a building on fire. Keep your tree watered daily. Follow safety instructions for how many strands of lights can be plugged into each other continuously. Do not use strands of lights with frayed wires or cracked bulbs. Do not use electric lights on a metallic tree. Turn the lights of your tree off before leaving the house and while you are sleeping. Never leave candles or open flame near a Christmas tree. Never allow smoking near a Christmas tree. Keep fragile and sharp-edged ornaments above reach of children and pets. Keep in mind that holly berries, poinsettia, and mistletoe are poisonous to humans and pets.
Candles and Unattended Fires
House fires can be caused from a variety of things, but more often than not, homes can catch fire when candles, open flames, and fireplaces are left unattended. Never leave a source of fire unattended.
Candles: Before lighting a candle, be it is away from furniture, curtains, bedding, books, paper, and other flammables. Always trim the wick to a quarter of an inch to prevent the candle’s flame from burning too high. Keep hair and loose clothing away from the flame. Do not leave children or pets unattended near the open flame. Extinguish candles that burn to high or flicker excessively. Always use a candle snuffer to extinguish a candle in order to prevent the hot wax from splattering. Do not touch or move the candle until it is completely cooled.
Before lighting a fire in a fireplace, be sure the fireplace is clean including the inside of the chimney and around the outside brick. Only use firewood cut into smaller pieces. Do not try to burn whole logs, styrofoam, aerosol cans, or chemicals in the fireplace. Keep flammables away from the fireplace hearth and have a fire extinguisher nearby. Use a fireplace cover made of glass, mesh, or iron to protect from logs and embers from escaping the fireplace. Do not leave the fireplace unattended. To properly extinguish a fire, use a fireplace poker to spread the embers and remaining wood into a flat pile. Use a fireplace shovel to scoop ashes and spread them over the flames. Pour baking soda on top of the wood. Once the embers have cooled completely, clean them out of the fireplace and dispose of them properly.
Here’s what to do if you are ever caught in a fire:
- Extinguish the fire if possible. If the fire is a small spark or a pan catches fire on the stove, you may be able to contain it by using your fire extinguisher. Never pour water on an electrical fire.
- Exit the building to safety. Be cautious of smoke inhalation. Stay low to the ground and crawl to the nearest exit. Be sure to feel the door and doorknob for heat before opening. Once outside, run to safety. Do not stand near a burning building. Call 911 for help as soon as you are out of the building.
- If trapped inside a burning building, stay low to the ground to avoid smoke inhalation. Cover vents and door cracks with blankets to prevent smoke from seeping into the room. Call 911 if you have access to a phone. If a safe window exit by a fire escape or ladder is not possible, hang a bedsheet or wave from the window to let firefighters know where you are.
- Remember to STOP, DROP, and ROLL if you or your clothing catches fire.
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