The holidays can be a beautiful time of year, with the soft glow of twinkling lights near a roaring fire while the smell from fresh baking fills the room.
But the combination of holiday decor and traditions can have devastating results. Langford Fire Chief Chris Aubrey offered some advice for West Shore resident to help prevent holiday disasters from occurring.
“Cooking is the number one cause of house fires,” Aubrey said, regardless what time of year it is. But since the holidays can be hectic, with lots of baking or cooking, it’s easy to become distracted while something’s on the stove or in the oven. While Aubrey said he didn’t want to discourage anyone from these great holiday traditions, he noted “we want to make sure people are safe while doing that.”
Although he said they are seeing fewer fires directly related to Christmas, there is always that risk associated with decorations as well as cooking.
“Never leave a candle unattended … I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to a fire where someone lit a candle and walked away and came back to the entire room on fire,” Aubrey said. “They’re beautiful and often come with beautiful scents that make your house smell nice but we do have to treat them with respect.”
If you are burning candles, he suggested avoiding long, tapered varieties and instead opt for something with a thick, sturdy base. He added it’s also important to make sure candles are contained in a non-combustible container, that way as they burn down they continue to be protected by the container.
The holidays are also a great time to speak with your kids about fire safety and candles.
And while Aubrey joked firefighters are fortunate that the majority of residents are no longer using candles on live Christmas tree, there are still some concerns that come along with bringing a tree inside your home.
“You just have to make sure they’re well watered,” he explained. While it may originally be a safe distance from a heat source such as a fireplace, “as the tree dries out the threshold gets less and less … [and] now it’s too close.”
Besides making sure trees are a safe distance from heat, it’s also important to check the wiring of all lights – including your outdoor strands. If any wires are frayed, split or shorting out, Aubrey noted they need to be disposed of.
He added it’s also important to “limit the use of powerbars and extension cords so they’re not overloading your house.”
If you have guests or family members staying with you during the season, make sure they know all of the emergency exits and where any fire extinguishers and alarms are placed.
Caring for the outside of your home can be just as important in the event of a disaster. Make sure all driveways and walkways are clear of leaves, debris, ice or snow. This provides easy access to your home for you and anyone visiting, including first responders.
If you need to be on a ladder or your roof in the coming weeks, Aubrey suggested waiting for a clear day that’s not icy to tackle outside jobs such as clearing gutters and hanging Christmas lights. He added you can utilize a break in the weather now when it’s safer to hang lights but don’t have to turn them on until later in the season. “Just take precautions when putting the lights up,” he said, adding it’s also important to make sure someone is home and holding the ladder.
Find the entire holiday edition of West Shore Family online.