Thursday, 06 December 2012 08:52

Swift Current fire chief offers Christmas safety tips

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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Fire safety at home should always be a priority, but it becomes even more important at Christmas when families get together to share the festive spirit.

Swift Current Deputy Fire Chief Pete L’Heureux said some basic precautions around the home will ensure people’s safety.
“We certainly don’t want any Christmas tragedies,” he emphasized. “Hopefully we get through an uneventful Christmas season and everybody uses a little bit of safety and keeps everybody in their home safe.”
There is nothing like a Christmas tree to get one into a festive mood, but it can become a fire hazard if not properly cared for. A freshly-cut tree with a high-moisture content is safer and it must be well watered to keep it from drying out. The tree should not be placed near a heat source such as a fireplace, television, heating duct or sunny window and it should not block any doors or windows.
“If it starts to dry out, you really want to think about getting it out of your house as soon as possible because they burn incredibly quick,” L’Heureux said.
While Christmas decorations will brighten up a home, it can place additional strain on electrical outlets and extension cords.
“Everybody wants lights, they want a lot of stuff, and they start to overload extension cords,” he warned.
The installation of Christmas lights inside a home must be done carefully to prevent any contact or close proximity to curtains, upholstery or a Christmas tree.
“It’s better now with LED lights and the small mini bulbs, but the old incandescent bulbs get really hot and they tend to heat stuff up,” he said.
Putting up Christmas lights outside the home requires care to prevent any slips or falls while using a ladder or even getting on a roof.
“Slip and fall injuries start to happen in the fall and into the Christmas season because people want to make sure they get out that extra string of lights, put some new lights out or fix up the lights that they have on the house,” he cautioned.
Candles are synonymous with the holiday season, but it can easily become a fire hazard. Burning candles should not be left unattended or placed near anything that can catch fire. They must also be out of reach of pets and young children.
“Just keep an eye on the candles and make sure you remember they’re on and to blow them out,” he said. “You certainly don’t want to leave it in a position where it can catch anything else on fire.”
The kitchen usually becomes a busy place in the run-up to the Christmas meal with a potential for grease and fat fires. Use a lid to smother a pot or pan fire and turn the heat off immediately. Never throw water on a grease fire or turn on the overhead fan. Baking soda can be used on a shallow grease fire, but flour can be explosive.
“Make sure that you keep an eye on things in the kitchen and give yourself a few minutes, especially when you know you’re going to have a function on,” he said.
L’Heureux emphasized this is great time of the year to change smoke detector batteries in anticipation of the family’s visit.
“It’s really cheap insurance, just a few dollars for a new nine-volt battery,” he said. “Make sure your smoke detectors are working to protect your family during the Christmas season.”
Each household should have a fire escape plan and guests should also be familiar with the details of the plan, such as the location of a fire extinguisher, escape routes and the location of a meeting place outside the house.
“It seems silly to tell somebody who’s coming to stay this is how you get out in case of a fire, but to me that shows that you really care about them and your family,” he said. “That’s really an important thing, to make sure that everybody is out safely.”
Emergency preparedness means having a basic emergency kit in your home. It should include items such as a flashlight and batteries, blankets, a first-aid kit, a battery-powered or wind-up radio, a can opener, canned food and other food items that will not spoil as well as two litres of water per person per day.
“What we want to look at is being able to take care of our own family for the first 72 hours,” he said.
Members of the Swift Current Fire Department will be on duty throughout the festive season to deal with any emergencies, but L’Heureux would prefer that it is a quiet time for them.
“It’s just not a nice time of the year to have memories of incidents or accidents,” he said. “So we prefer everybody to be safe and cautious and use a little bit of extra judgement to make sure that they have a happy, healthy festive season.”
Source note: Additional information obtained from Canada Safety Council website located at:

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