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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

State Fire Commissioner Offers Holiday Fire Prevention Tips

Holiday Fire Prevention Tips

Harrisburg – While the holidays bring festivities and good cheer, it is also a season of increased risk for home fires, according to State Fire Commissioner Ed Mann.

“Christmas trees, candle usage and holiday decorations significantly contribute to the seasonal causes of home fires. When you add to that the distracting nature of the holidays, the risk of home fires increases,” Mann said. “But by taking preventative steps and following simple rules, you can prevent most home fires.”

Mann suggests that simply paying closer attention when decorating, cooking and entertaining can significantly increase safety.

With unattended cooking being the leading cause of U.S. home fires and home fire injuries, Mann advises:

* Be attentive when cooking. Turn off the stove when leaving the kitchen.
* Keep anything that can catch fire away from the stove top.
* When simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that food is cooking. If frying, stay at the stove.
* Create a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food and drinks are prepared or carried.

December is the peak month for home fires caused by candles. Statistics from the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA, show that more than half of all candle-related fires start because of candles that are placed too close to flammable items.

Mann offers these tips for candle safety:

* Use flameless candles, which look and smell like real candles.
* When using traditional candles, keep them at least one foot away from anything that can burn.
* Blow out candles when you leave the room or go to bed.
* Use sturdy candle holders that won’t tip over and place them only on uncluttered surfaces.
* Avoid using candles in the bedroom – where two out of five candle fires in the U.S. begin – or in other areas where people may fall asleep.
* Never leave children alone in a room with a burning candle.

According to NFPA, U.S. fire departments annually respond to an average of 250 structure fires caused by Christmas trees. Nearly half of them are caused by electrical problems, and one in four resulted from a heat source positioned too close to the tree.

Mann offers the following advice for placing, maintaining and lighting a tree:

• If using an artificial tree, be sure it’s labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.

• If using a fresh-cut tree, add water to the tree stand, and be sure to water it daily. Keep pets from drinking the water.

• Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit, and is at least three feet away from any heat source such as fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, candles and heat vents or lights.

• Closely inspect holiday lights and discard any strings that are worn or working intermittently.

• Always turn off tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

• At season’s end, properly discard of the tree. Dried trees are fire hazards and should not be left in the house or garage, or placed outdoors near the home.

• Bring outdoor holiday lights inside soon after the holidays to prevent hazards and lengthen their lifespan.

By following these fire prevention tips, Mann says you can greatly reduce the risk of fire and enjoy a safe holiday season.

Visit for more information and safety tips. For more information on the fire service in Pennsylvania, visit the fire commissioner’s Web site at

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