Six fire hazards of Christmas

Friday, December 14, 2007

Two house fires Monday left seven people looking for temporary living arrangements. Cape Girardeau fire chief Rick Ennis said the six most common fire hazards are easily preventable.

The holidays are a good excuse for stocking up on safety gear, such as fire extinguishers, smoke alarms or flashlights, he said.

"We harp and harp and harp on smoke detectors," Ennis said. "They make wonderful gifts. It's the gift that shows you care."

Here's his advice on keeping the Yuletide fires where they belong:

(Photos by Aaron Eisenhauer)

1. Cooking: For years the leading cause of fires has been in the kitchen. Holidays and unfamiliar recipes can distract busy cooks even more. Keep kitchen traffic to a minimum; the handles of pots from extending over stovetop edges; and a fire extinguisher within reach.

2. Cigarettes: Ennis said the most individual fatal fires, year-round, happen when smokers doze off while holding a cigarette. The U.S. Fire Administration recommends smoking outside or at least not smoking in bed or on the couch.

3. Candles: "Around the holiday season, we see an increase in fires started by unattended candles." Ennis said. "Buy good sturdy candles that are going to stay in place. Do not leave them in an unoccupied room, or near drapery or decorations. Keep kids and pets away from them."

4. The tree: Real or artificial, trees don't typically cause fires, but do help them spread quickly. "Put them up late and take them down early," Ennis said. Water real trees frequently. Keep either kind far from anything with flames or sparks.

5. Things with plugs: Overloaded extension cords, ancient space heaters and, yes, quirky Christmas lights can ruin the season. "Make sure you have good, UL-approved lights. They should be marked," Ennis said. "As inexpensive as they are, any time you get lights flickering off or on or continuously blowing fuses, it's wise to replace the lights."

6. Holiday cheer: Whether on the party circuit or enjoying a spiked eggnog at home, drink responsibly. Alcohol is blamed for 40 percent of residential fires.

335-6611, extension 127

Read more in Peg McNichol's blog

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