Douse that fire threat

December 18, 2013

Tis the season for fires.

Yes, December in this country is traditionally one of the deadliest for house fire for obvious reasons. Christmas tree ornaments pose a threat, as do methods many people use to try to protect themselves from the cold, particularly through the use of space heaters.

Here are some safety tips from the U.S. Fire Association, a division of Federal Emergency Management Administration.

— Never overload circuits or extension cords. Do not place cords and wires under rugs, over nails or in high traffic areas. Immediately shut off and unplug appliances that sputter, spark or emit an unusual smell.

—When using appliances, follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions. Overheating, unusual smells, shorts and sparks are all warning signs that appliances need to be shut off, then replaced or repaired. Unplug appliances when not in use. Use safety caps to cover all unused outlets, especially if there are small children in the home.

— Portable heaters need their space. Keep anything combustible at least 3 feet away.

— Keep fire in the fireplace. Use fire screens and have your chimney cleaned annually. The creosote buildup can ignite a chimney fire that could easily spread.

— Kerosene heaters should be used only where approved by authorities. Never use gasoline or camp-stove fuel. Refuel outside and only after the heater has cooled.

— When home fire sprinklers are used with working smoke alarms, your chances of surviving a fire are greatly increased. Sprinklers are affordable, and they can increase property value and lower insurance rates.

— Practice an escape plan from every room in the house. Caution everyone to stay low to the floor when escaping from fire and never to open doors that are hot. Select a location where everyone can meet after escaping the house. Get out then call for help.

— Children under 5 are naturally curious about fire. Many play with matches and lighters. Take the mystery out of fire play by teaching your children that fire is a tool, not a toy.

In regard to that Christmas tree and ornaments, more tips.

— Water your tree daily to prevent it from drying out.

— Check the manufacturer’s labels to ensure you use only lights and decorations that are flame-retardant. Look for a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories, Intertek or the Canadian Standards Association.

— Check holiday lights for frayed wires or excessive wear.

— Don’t connect more than three strands of mini-string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.

— Keep your tree at least 3 feet away from any heat source, such as a fireplace, radiator, candles or lights.

— Always turn off lights on a tree before going to bed or leaving your home.

— Get rid of a tree when its needles start dropping. It means the tree is drying out.