Mayor’s Column: Fire safety tips this holiday season

Mayor Mignogna – “Our Voorhees Township Fire Department wants to keep your household from becoming a holiday fire statistic.”

The holiday season is a time for family celebrating and decorating your home. It is important to remember this is the most dangerous time of the year for household fires. The top four days of the year for home candle fires are Christmas, New Year’s Day, New Year’s Eve and Christmas Eve.

Our Voorhees Township Fire Department wants to keep your household from becoming a holiday fire statistic. Here are important safety tips to follow.

Cooking is the top cause of holiday fires, according to the United States Fire Administration. The most common culprit is food that is left unattended. It is easy to get distracted with family celebrations and entertaining demands.

Take a potholder with you when you leave the kitchen as a reminder that you have something on the stove. Make sure to keep a kitchen fire extinguisher that is rated for all types of fires and check that smoke detectors are working.

If you are planning to deep-fry a holiday turkey, do it outside on a flat level surface and at least 10 feet from the house.

The incidence of candle fires is four times higher during December than during other months. To reduce the danger, maintain about a foot of space between the candle and anything that can burn. Set candles on sturdy bases or cover them with hurricane globes. Never leave flames unattended. Before bed, walk through each room to make sure candles are out. For atmosphere without worry, consider flameless LED candles.

To minimize risk, buy a fresh Christmas tree with intact needles. Get a fresh cut on the trunk and water it every day. A well-watered tree is almost impossible to ignite. Keep the tree away from heat sources such as a fireplace or radiator and out of traffic patterns. If you are using live garlands and other greenery, keep them at least three feet away from heating sources. Most real trees start to dry out after about four weeks. Artificial trees do not pose much of a fire hazard, but just make sure yours is flame-retardant.

Inspect light strings and throw out any with frayed or cracked wires or broken sockets. When decorating, do not run more than three strings of lights end to end. Extension cords should be in good condition and UL-rated for indoor or outdoor use. Check outdoor receptacles to make sure the ground fault interrupters do not trip. If they trip repeatedly, that is a sign that they need to be replaced. When hanging lights outside, avoid using nails or staples that can damage the wiring and increase the risk of a fire. Instead, use UL-rated clips or hangers.

The number of fires and, tragically, the number of deaths caused by children playing with fire goes up significantly during the holidays. From January through March, 13 percent of fire deaths are the result of children playing with fire, and, in December, that percentage doubles. Keep matches and lighters out of kids’ reach.

Soot can harden on fireplace chimney walls as flammable creosote, so check to see if your chimney needs cleaning. Screen the fireplace to prevent embers from popping out onto the floor or carpet, and never use flammable liquids to start a fire in the fireplace. Only burn seasoned wood. Do not use wrapping paper.

When cleaning out the fireplace, put embers in a metal container and set them outside to cool for 24 hours before disposal.

The Township Committee and our Fire Department want everyone to have a safe holiday!