Safety a must during holidays
By Chris Moore
Cold fronts and the holiday season can provide a perfect wintry mix, but Christmas decorations and space heaters can be a disastrous one.
Groves Fire Chief Dale Jackson said lax safety precautions cause house fires every year.
The fire chief said people should inspect their Christmas lights before hanging them up inside or outside.
“Make sure there is no bare wire showing,” Jackson said. “You have to make sure everything is in working order, before you put them up. The other thing is not to overload the circuit. Usually, instructions come with the lights to tell you how many you can plug in in a row.”
Jackson said newer sets have fuses in them that will turn lights off if they overload. However, some people bypass the fuse to string lights together.
“That’s not a good thing to do,” Jackson said, because they’re designed for safety.
Before one cranks up the fireplace to combat cold fronts, Jackson said people should have their annual fireplace inspection.
“If you burn wood in it that has a lot of sap, that stuff will build up in the flue and start fires,” he said. “Sap can cause all kinds of problems and ruin your fireplace and set your house on fire if it overheats.”
Jackson said some local companies will come and clean out fireplaces and chimneys.
“If you have a brick fireplace, you need to make sure there aren’t any cracks in it where smoke and heat can seep out,” he said. “You need to get someone that knows what they are looking for.”
Hang with care
Stockings must be hung by the chimney with care.
“If you have an open fireplace, it’s always best to keep flammable things away,” Jackson said. “You do have radial heat coming out of there and you could set things on fire.”
Jackson said having combustibles near heat provides common causes of fires this time of year.
“People use fires or portable space heaters and end up getting combustibles too close,” he said.
Those who still use a live Christmas tree need to be sure to keep the tree hydrated, Jackson said.
“We’ve seen it over the years,” he said. “When you bring a live Christmas tree in the house, you’re bringing it in a controlled atmosphere. Usually, if you’re running the air-conditioning and heat, you’re pulling moisture out of the house, which dries the tree out quicker.
“You want to make sure it doesn’t turn into tinder. We’ve seen it many times. It burns like you threw gasoline on it.”
Jackson said people should avoid putting cords under rugs because they can begin to fray from the wear and tear of people walking over it and the damage can go undetected because it is covered.
If a home uses gas heat, the owners need to make sure the chambers aren’t cracked to cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Jackson said each home should have at least one smoke detector in the house and check it regularly (every two-three weeks).
“Some homes, depending on the size, might need two smoke detectors,” he said. “You can buy some that are dual carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. My recommendation is to buy separate ones; that way, if one fails, you still have the other. The same thing goes for having two smoke detectors. Even in a smaller house, if one fails, the other will still go off.”
Jackson said the department will help people set up a detector if they need help or have a disability.