Homes With Heart- Heather Coombs-Perez

Welcome to the Holiday Season! Good cheer, empty wallets and time spent with family and friends are the norm. However, decking the halls with boughs of holly could turn your home into a giant bonfire when you mix in candles, dry pine tree needles, and electrical lights that only get used once a year.

Culver City Fire Department Fire Prevention Specialist, Broc Harmon, says that the most common causes of fire during this time of year are from fallen candles, overloaded outlets, damaged holiday lights, unattended stoves while cooking, and fireplaces. According to the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Prevention Association, each year an estimated 420 home fires involve Christmas trees, holiday lights or other holiday-related causes.
Here’s some information on how to have a safe and happy holiday.

Christmas Tree Safety
The easiest way to prevent a Christmas tree fire is to keep the tree well watered. When you select a tree, the needles should be green and springy. If a lot of needles fall off when you bounce the base of the trunk on the ground, it is probably an old tree that has dried out and should be discarded. Do not place the tree near a heat source in your home as it will cause it to dry out faster, and keep it well watered by ensuring there is at least an inch of water in the tree stand at all times. After two weeks, discard the tree by recycling it or have it hauled away by a community pick-up service. Never place branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.

Holiday Lights and Decorations
It’s important to inspect your holiday lights each year noting any frayed wires, bare spots, broken or cracked sockets, or excessive kinks before putting them up. Read the manufacturers instructions and don’t link more than three strands of lights together. Make sure the lights you purchase are UL listed and fire marshall approved. Only use lights approved for external use outside, and periodically check that the wires are not warm to the touch. Extension cords should only be used for a maximum of 30 days and are not approved for long-term use. Finally, do not leave holiday lights on unattended!

Space Heaters, Candles and Cooking
Make sure to blow out candles when you leave the room and keep them away from combustible materials such as blankets and curtains. The same holds true for space heaters. When you’re cooking never leave items unattended on the stove and turn handles towards the center to prevent accidents. If you’re deep frying a turkey, make sure to read the manufacturers instructions and do it outdoors. Do not overheat the oil and thoroughly thaw the meat before placing it in the fryer. (Remember Archimedes in the bathtub- Eureka- and leave enough space for the turkey to displace the hot oil, or you might have a really unforgettable holiday-)

Although beautiful, fireplaces require regular upkeep and maintainance to keep them operating at their best. Clean your chimney annually if you tend to use the fireplace quite a lot. Cleaning logs help, but a thorough professional cleaning should be part of your regular maintainance. Before lighting a fire, remove the stockings from the mantle. Do not use the fireplace in place of a garbage bag when getting rid of holiday wrapping paper as it could cause a large amount of embers and sparks, resulting in a chimney fire.

We hope these tips help you enjoy a safe holiday season, so you can ring in the New Year with health and happiness. If you’re looking to celebrate by moving into a new home in 2011, drop me an email at [email protected].

For more information about Fire Prevention, call the Culver City Fire Department Hotline at 310-253-5925.

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