Fire department offers holiday safety reminders

  • Published
  • By James Palmer
  • Keesler fire prevention section assistant chief
According to data from the National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Fire Administration, an estimated 240 home fires involving Christmas trees and 150 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year. Following a few simple fire safety tips can keep electric lights and the ever-popular Christmas tree from creating a tragedy.

What's a traditional Christmas morning scene without a beautifully decorated tree? If your household includes a natural tree in its festivities, the Keesler Fire Department recommends the following tips to make your home fire-safe during the holidays. Many artificial trees are fire resistant. If you buy one, look for a statement specifying this protection. A fresh tree will stay green longer and be less of a fire hazard than a dry tree. Check you tree for freshness:

· A fresh tree is all green.
· Fresh needles are hard to pull from branches.
· When bent between your fingers, fresh needles do not break.
· The trunk of a fresh tree is sticky with resin.
· When the trunk of a tree is bounced on the ground, a shower of falling needles shows that the tree is too dry.

Place tree at least five feet away from heat sources. Heated rooms dry trees out rapidly creating a fire hazard. Cut off about two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for better water absorption. Trim away branches as necessary to set tree trunk in the base of a sturdy water-holding stand with wide-spread feet. Keep stand filled with water while tree is indoors. Add a cup of sugar to the water each refill. Place tree out of the way of foot traffic and do not block any exits. Choosing and caring for a Christmas tree may mean the difference between a safe holiday home and a dangerous one.

Decorating the tree and home for the holidays can be a special event for families everywhere. Since many types of decorations involve electrical devices and wiring, potentially flammable materials and often candles, accidents can happen. Remember the following tips when using electrical devices on trees and you will have a safe holiday season.

· Use only lights that have been tested for safety. Identify these by the label from an independent testing laboratory.
· Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard damaged sets or have them repaired before using.
· Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per surge protector. Do not connet surge protectors together for use as extension cord. Extension cords are highly discouraged with use of lights.
· Turn off all lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave the house. Lights could short and start a fire.
· Do not place any candles on the tree.
· Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and any person touching a branch could be electrocuted. To avoid this danger, use colored spotlights above or beside a tree, never fastened onto it.

During this holiday season, plan for safety. Look for and eliminate potential danger spots near trees and other electrical connections. Make an emergency plan to use if a fire breaks out in the home. Make sure each family member knows what to do and practice the plan.

For more information call 228-377-3330/3333 or stop by building 4225 on Hangar Road.

Always remember that all fires, including those that have been extinguished, on Keesler property must be reported by dialing 911.