Using fire safety tips could save holiday season

December 09, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A well-decorated, well-placed Christmas tree can bring joy to the hearts of many during the holiday season.

It also could be the biggest fire hazard in the home during the month of December and easily could turn holiday joy into tragedy, one Hagerstown Fire Department spokesman said.

Hagerstown Fire Department Public Educator Mike Weller said Christmas trees, while festive for the season, are highly combustible and are dangerous if not maintained properly by area residents.

"Historically, there seem to be a lot of tragic fires over the holiday," Weller said. "People are busy. They don't take time to think about fire safety."


Weller said that if a tree is too dry and catches fire, an entire room could be engulfed in a few seconds.

"It's supposed to be a happy time of year. You don't want it to be ruined by a tragic event where, if common sense would have been followed, the incident wouldn't have happened in the first place," he said.

The following were among the holiday safety suggestions regarding Christmas trees and lights released Wednesday by the department:

· Select a fresh tree and tap it on the ground; if many needles fall off, it is too dry.

· Keep a live tree outside until people are ready to decorate it.

· Cut at least 2 inches off the bottom of the tree's trunk to allow it to feed off a water source. Also, check the water level daily and refill as needed.

· Keep the tree at least 3 feet from any heat source.

· Inspect lights in search of dangerous frayed wires, loose connections and exposed wires before they are placed onto the tree.

· Fasten lights securely to the tree and keep the bulbs away from curtains.

· Turn off all decorative lights, indoors and outdoors, before leaving the home for an evening or going to sleep.

The department also suggests several safety items - smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, flashlights and escape ladders - as useful holiday gift ideas.

Weller said anyone seeking additional tips on fire safety for the holiday season and beyond may call 301-790-2476.

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