A few safety measures can keep holiday fire-free

Residents of Kentucky, southern Illinois and three other states hit by twisters this past weekend are coping with death and destruction as many of us are preparing for Christmas festivities.

These powerful storms resulted in unavoidable tragedies. Our friends at the Hinsdale Fire Department hope to call our attention to avoidable tragedies this holiday season by participating in the statewide Keep the Wreath Red fire safety program. For each fire caused by holiday decorations, a red bulb will be replace with a white one on the wreath that hangs outside the fire station at 121 Symonds Drive.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments annually respond to an average of 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees. Almost one-third of those fires are caused by electrical fires, and the blazes cause an average of three deaths, 15 injuries and $10 million in direct property damage annually.

In 26 percent of Christmas tree fires and in 80 percent of the deaths, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree. A dried out tree will burn in less than 1 minute — much faster than one that has been watered regularly. Once the tree has become brittle, stop using the lights. And lights should never be left on when no one is home.

Firefighters also offer these reminders to help residents stay safe this holiday season.

• Check all illuminated decorations to make sure they are in good condition. Light strands with frayed or cracked wires should be thrown away and replaced with UL approved devices. Outside cords should be approved for exterior use.

• Do not overload extension cords or outlets with excessive holiday lights. Follow the manufacturers’ recommendations. Also, be conscious of where you place extension cords. Keep them away from heaters, out from underneath rugs and anywhere else they might become damaged.

• Never leave candles unattended. Always place them in stable holders out of reach of children and pets. Consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look, smell and feel like real candles.

• Make sure your fireplace is in good working order and the chimney is free from obstructions and creosote build-up. Christmas wrappings and tree branches burn rapidly and should not to be put in the fireplace, as they can cause chimney fires and flames to extend out of the firebox into your home.

• Keep Christmas trees at least 3 feet away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, candles or heat vents. Trees should be disposed of shortly after Christmas or when they become dry.

• As always, check smoke detectors and make sure they are in good working order. If you did not change the batteries when changing clocks to daylight-saving time, change them now.

• After Christmas, real trees should be thrown out. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left inside or placed outside against the home. Hinsdale residents may place trees at the curb during the weeks following New Year’s Day for free collection. All decorations must be removed. Artificial trees require two garbage stickers for collection.

• Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and help them last longer.