For most, the kitchen is the heart of the home, especially during the holidays. From testing family recipes to decorating cakes and cookies, everyone enjoys being part of the preparations.
So keeping fire safety top of mind in the kitchen during this joyous but hectic time is important, especially when there’s a lot of activity and people at home. As you start preparing your holiday schedule and organizing that large family feast, remember, by following a few simple safety tips you can enjoy time with your loved ones and keep yourself and your family safer from fire.
“As everyone gets busier during the holidays, we often become rushed, distracted or tired,” said Chief Richard Sluder of the Wauseon Fire Department. “That’s when home fires are more likely to occur.”
Fortunately, with a little added awareness and some minor adjustments to holiday cooking and decorating, the season can remain festive and safe for everybody. “By taking some preventive steps and following simple rules of thumb, most home fires can be prevented.”
With unattended cooking as the leading cause of U.S. home fires and home fire injuries, Chief Sluder says the following safety tips provided by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) should always be followed:
• Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stove top so you can keep an eye on the food.
• Stay in the home when cooking your turkey and check on it frequently.
• Keep children away from the stove. The stove will be hot and kids should stay three feet away.
• Make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause serious burns.
• Keep the floor clear so you don’t trip over kids, toys, pocketbooks or bags.
• Keep knives out of the reach of children.
• Be sure electric cords from an electric knife, coffee maker, plate warmer or mixer are not dangling off the counter within easy reach of a child.
• Keep matches and utility lighters out of the reach of children — up high in a locked cabinet.
• Never leave children alone in room with a lit candle.
• Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.
Candles are widely used in homes throughout the holidays, and December is the peak month for home candle fires. The NFPA statistics show that two of every five home decoration fires are started by candles.
The Fire Department encourages our residents to consider using flameless candles, which look and smell like real candles. However, if you do use traditional candles, keep them at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and remember to blow them out when you leave the room or go to bed. Use candle holders that are sturdy, won’t tip over and are placed on uncluttered surfaces. Avoid using candles in the bedroom where more than one-third of U.S. candle fires begin or other areas where people may fall asleep. Lastly, never leave a child or pet alone in a room with a burning candle.
According to NFPA, U.S. fire departments respond to an average of 210 home structure fires caused by Christmas trees per year. Three of every ten of them is caused by electrical problems, and one in four result from a heat source that’s too close to the tree. The Wauseon Fire Department offers the following advice for picking, placing and lighting the tree:
• If you have an artificial tree, be sure it’s labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.
• If you choose a fresh tree, make sure the green needles don’t fall off when touched; before placing it in the stand, cut two inches from the base of the trunk. Add water to the tree stand, and be sure to water it daily.
• Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit, and is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, candles and heat vents or lights.
• Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory, and make sure you know whether they are designed for indoor or outdoor use.
• Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords, or loose bulb connections. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of light strands to connect.
• Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
• Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving the home or going to bed.
• The City of Wauseon will pick up Christmas trees as part of brush collection efforts after the holidays. Check the City of Wauseon website at www.cityofwauseon.com for this schedule.
• After Christmas, get rid of the tree. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside the home.
• Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.
By following these fire prevention tips and measures, the Wauseon Fire Department says you can greatly reduce the risk of fire in your home, and enjoy a safe holiday season.
“The holidays can quickly turn from joyful to tragic when a fire occurs,” said Chief Sluder. “By taking simple precautions, people can avoid potential fire hazards, and make this time of year a healthy and happy one.”
Visit www.nfpa.org/holiday for more information and safety tips, and check the Wauseon Fire Department website for further information www.wauseonfire.com .