When cold weather shows up and the holiday season approaches, the number of house fires increases across the country. Local fire and public safety officials remind residents to be safe while stoking those fireplaces and decorating for Christmas.
Many winter house fires are caused by decorative lighting, said Sallon Brown, Statesboro Fire Department fire inspector.
If using a live Christmas tree, “keep it watered,” she said. Natural pines, firs and cedars “dry out very quickly and are very flammable.”
Make sure your tree lights are in good working order before you place them on the tree. Check for wire fraying or shortages, she said.
Bulloch County fire Chief Christopher Ivey also recommends watering live trees daily and checking to see whether they are drying out. Leaving lights switched off when the tree is unattended is also a good safety measure, he said. “Don’t overload receptacles” with too many extension cords or strings of lights.
Brown said burning candles should not be left unattended and should be kept away from curtains and other loose flammable matter.
When it gets cold, heaters start going, but they can also be dangerous, Ivey said.
“Don’t overfill kerosene heaters, and do not fill them inside,” he said.
He suggests keeping any type of space heater away from flammable surfaces and that they not be left unattended.
Brown reminds people to use a UL-approved heater, one that shuts off when knocked over or placed on an uneven surface.
Fireplaces can be cheery ways to warm the home, but “make sure your chimneys are clean and vents opened,” she said.
Ivey agreed, suggesting annual chimney cleanings before winter weather arrives.
He also stressed the importance of smoke alarms and keeping passageways and exits clear of clutter in case of a fire.
Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn said regular battery changes help keep the alarms operable. He also reminds people that cold weather can harms pets and plants and suggests making sure they are brought in or protected during frigid temperatures.
Be careful of icy patches, and use salt — regular table salt or “rock salt like you use when making ice cream” — on slick surfaces such as steps or ramps that may ice over during the night.
When the temperatures dip below freezing, it is also a good idea to “wrap and drip your pipes,” he said.
Ivey said the Bulloch County area has been “fortunate” in that there have not been a great number of house fires recently, but there have been some already, including one fatal fire that reportedly started in a kitchen.
“Just keep watchful eyes,” Brown said.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.