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Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, how much should I water thee?

Glenwood Springs Fire Marshal shares holiday safety tips

Holiday safety snafus can make for great content on the silver screen, but at home, ignoring best practices can lead to a memorable season for all the wrong reasons, the Glenwood Springs fire marshal said.

With the help of the National Fire Protection Agency fact sheets, Fire Marshal Greg Bak assembled a list of holiday dos and don’ts for the season — though many are good guidelines year round, he said.

Indoors



If people put up real trees for Christmas, they should pick trees with fresh, green needles that don’t fall off when touched.

“The greener the tree, the less likely it is to be a fire hazard,” Bak said.



Place the tree at least 3 feet away from any heat source, don’t block an exit and water it regularly.

Avoid using light strings that act as heat sources, such as older holiday lights, and don’t decorate the tree with flammable ornamentation.

Lit candles should not be used to decorate a Christmas tree, and turn off any electric decorations, such as lights, before leaving the home or going to bed.

Test your fire alarms and ensure your fire extinguishers are in working order.

If a fire does start, call 911 immediately.

Modern building materials as well as the materials most consumer goods are constructed with contain a significant amount of petroleum products, resulting in residences burning much quicker than they have in previous decades. Most homes can become completely engulfed in about three to seven minutes nowadays, Bak said.

Outdoors

For many, the holidays are a time for visiting relatives, and with less daylight through the winter, many of those visits happen at night, Bak said.

“Keep your walkways clear of tripping hazards like power cords, snow and ice,” he said.

Use electrical cords rated for outdoor use when powering outdoor decorations, and don’t coil electrical cords tightly.

“Tightly coiled power cords can create enough heat to start a fire, especially if they get covered in dry leaves,” Bak said.

Dispose of a Christmas tree immediately after the holidays, because storing them in a garage or near a home as they dry out can create a fire hazard.

Before hanging holiday lights, check the length of the cable for broken bulbs or exposed wiring. Use clips for securing light strings, rather than nails or staples, to avoid damaging the cable.

If a fire hydrant is on or near your property, clear a 3-foot radius around the hydrant to ensure firefighters can easily find and access it if a fire breaks out.

Cooking

Kitchens can be excellent gathering places, right up until someone pulls something hot and heavy out of the oven, Bak said.

“Encourage people to give you some room before you pull the turkey out,” he said.

If a grease fire starts in a pan, remove the pan from the heat, put a lid on it, then call 911.

“All residences should have an ABC (general purpose) fire extinguisher on hand, located somewhere easy to access near the kitchen,” Bak said.

Avoid operating ovens and stovetops when distracted, sleepy or after consuming judgment-impairing substances, such as marijuana or alcohol.

Keep flammable items — oven mitts, towels and food packaging — away from the stove while cooking.

Call the Glenwood Springs Fire Department at 970-384-6433 for more safety tips or information about checking smoke alarms and fire extinguishers.

Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at ifredregill@postindependent.com.


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