|FORE IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: November 26, 2008
|Contact: J. William Degnan
State Fire Marshal
Cooler Weather and Holiday Season Decorations Increase the Threat for Fires
New Hampshire State Fire Marshal, Bill Degnan, urges everyone to be safety conscious during colder weather and throughout the holiday season. "Cold weather causes a higher fire threat due to increased uses of heating sources, such as electrical space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves. This, coupled with increased cooking activity, the use of extra holiday lights, candles and other decorations, pose an even greater threat for fires and fire deaths," says State Fire Marshal Degnan. "Through the middle of October, 16 people had died in fires in New Hampshire, 2 people died from carbon monoxide and 1 person from a building collapse, as we always struggle to keep those numbers down during the last few months of the year," he added.
In New Hampshire, fire deaths typically increase during the colder months from November through February, and all too often are the result of improper use of heating systems. The major causes of home heating fires are from heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces often due to:
- Leaving portable or space heaters unattended;
- Fueling errors involving liquid or gas-fueled heaters;
- Flaws in design, installation or use;
- Placing things that can burn too close to space and portable heaters, and;
- Lack of regular cleaning of chimneys in fireplaces and wood stoves.
The use of decorations and candles is a holiday tradition in many homes, but increases the possibilities for deadly fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), latest statistics show that 150 deaths, over 1,200 injuries, and an estimated 15,600 home structure fires were started by candles. Christmas Day and Christmas Eve, New Year's Day and New Year's Eve and Halloween were the top five days for home candle fires.
The New Hampshire State Fire Marshal's Office suggests the following safety tips to ensure a safe and happy holiday season:
General Heating Tips
Keep any heater at least three feet away from anything that might burn. This means curtains, walls, furniture, papers, etc. To avoid injury and other mishaps, keep children and pets away from heaters. ALWAYS REMEMBER, don't try to get a small device to do a big job. For best results, direct the heat from a portable heater where you want it. It won't heat an entire room. Focus the heat where you need it - but not so close that it can cause fires or burns.
When keeping a cut tree in the house, special fire safety precautions need to be taken. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases. Selecting a tree is the first step to safety. Make sure needles are green and hard to pull back from the branches. The trunk should be re-cut so it easily absorbs water. To avoid premature drying, keep your tree away from heat sources, including sunlight, fireplaces and heating vents. Your tree should be kept in water throughout its recommended two-week life. Locate the tree away from exits and use only cool lamp listed and approved lights. The use of tree lights should be limited to only times when the room is occupied.
Pay particular attention while cooking, especially when using oils and grease. Cooking appliances should be kept clean of grease build-up, which can easily ignite. Applying a lid to a small grease fire is usually the most effective and safest method of controlling it. Trying to carry a pan that's on fire is extremely dangerous because it can ignite clothes or spill, causing severe burns. If the fire is inside your oven, turn off the heat and leave the door closed to cut off the fire's air supply. Young children should be kept away from cooking appliances to prevent any mishaps. It's always a good idea to use back burners when possible and keep pot handles turned to the inside so they won't be pulled or knocked over. Check stoves and other appliances before going to bed or leaving your home to make sure that the units are left in the "off" position. With the increased popularity of frying turkey, NFPA and the National Burn Foundation warn consumers and discourage the use of turkey fryers. Tests have shown that many of the fryers have a risk of tipping over, overheating, or spilling hot oil, leading to fires and burns. The suggested alternative is to have a commercial professional prepare the turkey.
Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets. To avoid overloading electrical outlets, do not link more than three light strands unless the directions indicate it is safe. However tempting, it is not recommended to leave your lights burning overnight or while you are away from home.
If you choose to use lit candles, make sure they are in globes or stable holders. Place them where they cannot be easily knocked down or come in contact with combustibles. Never leave lit candles unattended. Lit candles should not be placed on or near your Christmas tree or near anything that can burn. Young children can be fascinated with a burning flame, so be sure candles, lighters or matches are not in reach of curious hands.
Now is a great time to test your smoke alarms and to review your home escape plan so that if in the event of a fire, everyone in your household knows how to get out quickly and safely. For even greater protection, consider installing a residential fire sprinkler system. Fire Sprinklers actually stop the spread of fire using small amounts of water that protects life and property. Remember that fire safety is your responsibility and your preventive actions may save your or your family's life. On behalf of the New Hampshire Office of the State Fire Marshal, we trust you and your family will have a fire safe holiday season.