Tips to avoid house fires during the holidays

Tips to avoid house fires during the holidays

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - While decorative lights, candles, Christmas trees may warm your heart this holiday season, area fire departments say they can pose a hazard if not monitored properly.

Fire prevention experts say even the colder temperatures can lead to an increased likelihood of a fire.

Fire departments from New Orleans, St. Bernard Parish, Kenner, Jefferson Parish, Plaquemines Parish, St. Tammany Fire Protection District #1 Fire Departments, the American Red Cross and the Louisiana State Fire Marshal's Office offered the tips below to keep your family and home safe as you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza and the New Year.

Christmas tree safety tips:
1.   Christmas trees should be fresh, not dry. Lack of moisture in the tree increases its combustibility, so water the tree regularly.

2.   When purchasing a fresh flocked tree ask the sales person if the tree has been treated with an approved flame-retardant flocking material, or ask where you may purchase the flame-retardant flocking material and treat the tree yourself.

3.   Place the tree at a safe distance from heat sources such as room heaters or fireplaces.   Also, locate the tree so that it will not obstruct the path of exit in case of a fire.

4.   Use only "approved" lighting strings, that is, only those lights which have been tested and labeled by a nationally recognized product testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories.
5.   Replace all Christmas tree lights that have "frayed" or broken wires, loose connections, or cracked plugs.

6.   Unplug the tree lights whenever you leave home or go to bed.

7.   Do not "overload" extension cords or electrical outlets, and do not place electrical cords under rugs or locations where the cord can be damaged. Always use an extension cord that has a three (3) pronged plug (which is an extension cord with a ground wire) that is approved by Underwriters Laboratory (UL) for outdoor use.

8.   Never hang electrical lights from a metallic tree as damaged insulation in the light string can electrically charge the tree, possibly causing shock or fire.

9.   Do not use candles or any other open flame on or near tree.

10. Never burn Christmas trees in fireplaces because the flames can flare out of control and send sparks flying into the room.

11. After the Christmas holidays, remove the tree from inside your home as soon as possible, placing the tree a safe distance from the house for garbage collection.

Outdoor lighting tips:
1.   Use a "dry, wooden ladder" when hanging holiday lights to reduce the chance of electrical shock, and stay clear of all overhead electrical wires.

2.   Use "insulated staples that are hammered in, rather than staple guns," again, to reduce the chance of electrical shock and fire.

3.   Water proof all electrical connections and keep them elevated so rain water will not drain into the connection which could cause shock or a short circuit.

4.   Avoid standing in water while handling electrical wiring or when using electrical power tools.

5.   Shut-off electrical power when replacing bulbs and keep the electricity off while putting up outdoor holiday lighting.

6.   And, never allow the bulbs to touch combustible materials, such as plastics, leaves grass or pine needles.

     Use heaters only in well ventilated rooms.
     Place heaters where they will not be knocked over easily.
     Do not use heaters to dry clothing or other items.
     Keep heaters at a safe distance from curtains, furniture and all combustibles.

     Plug heaters directly into the wall socket, and not into extension cords.
     Unplug heater when they're not being used.

     Don't leave food unattended on the stove.
     Pot handles are to be turned in while cooking on the stove.
     Keep dangling clothing away from burners.
     Keep appliances clean and free of grease and crumbs.
     Keep curtains and other combustibles away from the stove.
     Make sure the stove is off and small appliances are unplugged before  going to bed. 
     Keep a fire extinguisher handy, especially in the kitchen.

     Install smoke alarms near bedrooms and on every floor.
     Don't install smoke alarms in the kitchen or bathroom.
     Test the batteries monthly.
     Keep smoke alarms away from air vents.
     Place smoke alarms at least 4 to 6 inches away from walls and corners.

     Replace wiring if it's frayed or cracked.
     Do not place wiring under rugs, over nails or in high traffic areas.
     Use a surge protector to avoid overloading outlets.
     Keep covers over electric plates and avoid exposed wiring.

     Never smoke in bed.
     Keep ashtrays away from upholstered furniture and curtains.
     Always extinguish cigars, cigarettes and tobacco completely.
     Check wastebaskets and furniture for smoldering cigarettes.

     Use only flame-retardant or noncombustible materials for costumes and decorations.
     Use Chafing dishes with caution.
     Provide smokers with large, deep, non-tip ashtrays and keep an eye on anyone who is drinking and smoking.

     Keep lighters and matches away from children.
     Teach children how to call for emergency assistance.
     Use safety plugs in electrical outlets.
     When buying Children's presents, avoid toys made of highly flammable materials, be sure that all electric toys bear the label of an independent testing laboratory.
     Use only lighters with a child resistant feature, and keep all matches and lighters out of children's reach, up high and preferably in a locked cabinet.
     Teach young children to stay away from candles, fireplaces, and space    heaters.

     Use only seasoned wood. Never use green wood, plastic artificial logs, paper or trash.
     Always use a protective screen.
     Clean interiors, hearths and chimneys yearly.
     Have your chimney inspected by a professional at least once a year and have it cleaned if necessary.
     Remove ashes in a metal container.
     Because they may rekindle, never store ashes in your home.

     Before you light candles put them in a non-tip candle holder.
     Never burn candles near a Christmas tree or combustible decorations or displays.
     Keep candles well away from curtains and other combustibles, and never put candles in windows or near exits.
     Don't leave candles burning unattended or within the reach of small children.
     Extinguish candles before you leave a room, go to bed, or leave home.

Fire prevention experts ask that you consider giving a life-saving gift this year. They say carbon monoxide alarms or home fire extinguishers make great holiday gifts that could save a loved one's life.

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