Stay fire-free this year

Published 9:05 am Friday, November 29, 2013

Every year, an estimated 2,000 fires happen in residential buildings on Thanksgiving day, causing an estimated 5 deaths, 25 injuries and $21 million in property loss, according to FEMA statistics.

With Thanksgiving weekend on us and bitter cold just around the corner, now is an appropriate time to remind our readers of fire safety tips that could save lives and property and make sure the holiday season is safe and enjoyable for residents and firefighters alike.

The single most important fire safety tip at any time of year is to ensure your smoke alarms are working by pushing the test button. If they aren’t, get new batteries or new detectors immediately.

Thanksgiving is the leading day of the year for home cooking fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Cooking on Thanksgiving leads to more fires because of more distractions in the home. Here are some tips to prevent fires and other hazards:

• Stay in the home while the turkey is cooking, and check on it frequently.

• Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop, so you can keep an eye on the food.

• Never leave children alone in a room with a lit candle.

• Keep matches and utility lighters out of the reach of children.

• Keep children out of the kitchen. Give them an activity such as games, puzzles or books in another room.

• Keep knives out of the reach of children.

Keep the floor clear, so you don’t trip.

In addition, with cold weather approaching or, depending on your perspective, already here, home fires are more common because of improper use of heating equipment. Also from the National Fire Protection Association, here are some tips to prevent home heating fires and related hazards:

• Have your furnace inspected and served by a qualified professional.

• Have your chimneys and vents cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional, and check for creosote build-up, which is the leading cause of chimney fires.

• Use only dry, seasoned wood for the fireplace or wood stove.

• Use a metal or heat-tempered glass fireplace screen that is in good condition and secure in its position in front of the fireplace.

• Have a covered metal container ready to dispose of cooled ashes, and keep it at least 10 feet from any building.

• Use only portable space heaters that have an automatic shut-off, plug them directly into an outlet (not an extension cord) and keep them at least three feet from anything that can burn — paper, bedding, walls, furniture and people.

• Test your carbon monoxide alarms.

• Teach children to stay at least three feet away from the fireplace, wood stove, oil stove or other space heaters.