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Holiday safety tips are offered

December 13, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

Maryland State Fire Marshal William Barnard doesn't want to put a damper on anyone's holiday festivities but he also is determined to keep Marylanders safe by preaching hard on fire safety this season.

"Taking the time to be fire safe is a great way for families to avoid tragedies that can ruin the holidays," Barnard said.

Locally the message is the same, said Acting Hagerstown Fire Chief Rick Kipe.

Both Kipe and Barnard stress that Christmas trees are safest when they are freshly cut and kept away from sources of heat such as radiators, televisions, fireplaces, heating ducts or even a sunny window.

A tree stand with a firm base and large water reservoir is a must. A Christmas tree should be recut after purchase and kept supplied regularly with water, Barnard said.

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"And after the holidays, don't chop up that Christmas tree and use it for firewood," Kipe said. "They are the worst possible source of firewood."

Christmas wrapping paper should also be disposed of quickly and properly and not burned in the home fireplace, Kipe said.

Allegheny Power spokesman Allen Staggers recommended homeowners use only approved holiday lights, making sure to use only outdoor light sets outdoors. Inspect lights before using, discarding those with cracked bulbs or frayed wires.

And all electrical light strings and decorations should be turned off before going to bed at night, Staggers said.

Metallic Christmas trees should be illuminated by flood lights, not with lights mounted on the trees which create an electric shock hazard.

Homeowners are advised not to overload outlets, even for short periods of time. Don't bunch up extension cords or run them under a carpet or rug, Kipe said.

The holidays often mean a lot of cooking. If a fire starts on the stove, put a lid on the pan and turn off the burner. Never throw water on a grease fire, rather use baking soda or an approved fire extinguisher, Kipe said. Never leave the kitchen unattended while food is on the stove, he said.

Another holiday tradition is candlelight services at area churches. According to state fire regulations, there are some exceptions allowed for religious events, Kipe said.

Those regulations allow candles to be used as long as they are securely supported, not carried by children and not near any combustibles.

Many churches take that a step further for safety sake.

"We rent only approved globed candles for our services," Pastor Ron Shank of Maranatha Brethren Church said. "No one is holding candles or walking around with them."

Barnard said everyone should have working smoke alarms in their homes.

"Smoke alarms make great stocking stuffers. One size fits all and they save lives," he said.

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