This holiday season, take a few safety precautions to make sure you don’t get burned

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Dec 21, 2007 - As you go about the daily task of warming your home now that winter has arrived, Sulphur Springs firefighters ask you to keep a few safety tips in mind.

Don’t let this happen to you — firefighters say following a few safety tips will ensure that only the Christmas candles will be burning in your house over the holidays.

As the temperatures drop, take care with heaters and chimneys to prevent fires, and follow manufacturers' recommendations regarding  Christmas lights and deep frying turkeys, Sulphur Springs Assistant Fire Marshall Eric Hill urges.

�We�re doing this to try to keep from having accidents like the one in February when Caden West died,� Hill said.

He explained that the child and his sibling awoke before their parents and were up playing, wrapped in blankets. The child backed up into a heater, which caught the material on fire. The child died, and the house burned.

No one wants a tragic accident like that to happen, Hill said.

�We want everyone to have a very merry Christmas, with no Christmas ruined, and to continue all through the winter," he said.

Some tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep papers, bedding, furniture and other flammable items at least three feet from heating equipment, and make sure nothing can fall into the heater. Something as simple as a Christmas card igniting could result in tragedy. Also, as a precaution, turn heaters off at night when you can, and when leaving a room. 
  • Those who keep heaters under their desks to ward chills are reminded to keep them away from plastic bags, trash cans and anything else that could melt or ignite.
  • Newer heater models have considerable safety features compared to their older counterparts. Many will shut off automatically if tipped over or in the event of overheating, for example. Still, precautions should be taken, such as placing heaters on a 3 1/2 inch board made of noncombustible material when using them in rooms with carpets. Heaters should also be set down on a level surface.
  • Hill recommends that homeowners who use fireplaces have chimneys inspected yearly and cleaned when necessary by certified individuals. When cleaning up ashes, use a metal container, then safely dispose of them outside. But don't dump ashes in trash cans or dumpsters — embers that remain lit could start a fire. If needed, pour water on the ashes to be sure.
  • When putting up Christmas lights, take the time to check for any broken or cracked bulbs or fixtures, as they could potentially cause a fire. Also, follow the manufacturer’s cautions regarding how many light strings may be plugged in together or into one outlet. 
  • Use power strips, which can literally be life savers. Power strips have internal circuit breakers that trip when there's an electrical overload or short, preventing a trip to the breaker box in your home at best, and shorted out lights and fires at worst. Most manufacturers recommend no more than three sets of lights be plugged in together, but the number varies by wattage. If too many are together, however, it can lead to overheating and thrown breakers. Read the warnings and guides for each light string to be sure, Hill advises.
  • Many artificial Christmas trees are flame retardant, but that's not the case for the real deal. Keep cut trees watered and fresh so they won’t catch fire, Hill said, adding that pine trees have oils which are especially flammable.
  • Many people like to deep-fry turkeys during the holidays, and Hill recommends following the manufacturer’s guidelines explicitly. Cook outdoors in a clear area away from porches and buildings. Many deep fryers, like heaters, have features designed to help make them safer, such as extended hoses to keep propane tanks a safe distance away from the heat. Do not exceed recommended temperatures. Slowly lower the turkey into the deep fryer, even if it does take a few minutes to safely do so. Also, wipe as much moisture and oil as possible from the turkey prior to heating. Oil and water don’t mix, and the combo can cause hot oil to splash or bubble over. Also, wearing gloves can help protect the hands from the heat of the deep fryer and the grease. 
  • Smoke detectors are important. Check them regularly to ensure they are working. Replace batteries as needed. Hill recommends placing a smoke detector in front of every bedroom in the home. 
  • Homeowners who use space heaters, fireplaces and gas heaters are encouraged to purchase carbon monixide detectors. While CO detectors in the past were quite costly, the price has come down considerably, and they are readily available for as little as $20 at most hardware, home improvement and large department stores.

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