Fire marshal: Holidays bring higher risk of home blazes
PIERRE — Thanksgiving Day marks the start of a monthlong holiday season, and Fire Marshal Paul Merriman urges South Dakotans to celebrate the season but be aware of the added potential for fires.
The holiday season means more cooking, Christmas trees in homes, holiday lighting and decorative candles, Merriman said. Each of those things is a potential fire risk.
“We all love the trees and lights and the scent and sight of glowing candles,” he said. “Those are wonderful parts of the season. But they can be fire hazards if not handled properly. We don’t want anyone’s Thanksgiving or Christmas ruined by a home fire.”
The holiday season usually means more cooking, Merriman said. The National Fire Prevention Association says 40 percent of home fires start in the kitchen.
The association made cooking fires the theme of its annual Fire Prevention Week earlier this fall. It’s something to remember throughout the holiday season, Merriman said.
The potential for a cooking fire can be reduced by:
• Turning off burners if you leave the kitchen.
• Wearing clothing with tightfitting sleeves when you cook.
• Keeping potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper and plastic bags, towels and anything else that can burn away from your stovetop; and
• Cleaning up food and grease from burners and stovetops.
Safety tips to reduce the risk of other holiday-related home fires include:
• If you have a natural tree in your home, check the amount of water in the stand each day. A fresh tree can take in up to a quart of water a day.
• Place the tree away from heat sources such as fireplaces and heaters, and don’t place it in an exit path.
• Never use candles on or near a tree. Make sure the lights you use are UL listed and not frayed or damaged.
• Don’t use outdoor lights indoors or indoor lights outdoors.
• Don’t overload electrical circuits. Use approved circuit strips and turn off all Christmas lights before leaving the home or retiring for the evening.
• Put lit candles in glass safety globes and keep lit candles away from drafty windows and doorways.
• Avoid the temptation to burn cardboard boxes or holiday wrapping paper in a fireplace. Those materials burn at very high temperatures and not all fireplaces are suited to burn those materials.
-Source: SD Department of Public Safety