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Happy holiday safety greetings

Posted 12/26/2012   Updated 12/26/2012 Email story   Print story


by 341st Fire and Emergency Services

12/26/2012 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Decorating homes and businesses is a long-standing tradition around the holiday season. Unfortunately, these same decorations may increase the chances of a fire. Based on data from the National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Fire Administration, an estimated 240 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 150 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year. Together, these fires result in an average of 21 deaths and $25.2 million in direct property damage.

Following a few simple fire safety tips can keep electric lights, candles and the ever popular Christmas tree from creating a tragedy. Airmen should learn how to prevent a fire and what to do in case a fire starts in their home. Make sure all exits are accessible and not blocked by decorations or trees.

Help ensure everyone has a fire safe holiday season.


If someone's household includes a natural tree in their festivities, they should take to heart the sales person's suggestion - "Keep the tree watered."

Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires annually. Typically, shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches start tree fires. Well-watered trees are not a problem, but a dry and neglected tree can be.

Selecting a tree for the holidays

Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches; the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree was probably cut too long ago, has probably dried out and is a fire hazard.

Caring for a tree

Do not place a tree close to a heat source including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flames or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put a live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

Disposing of a tree

Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of a tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.

Remember: Live Christmas trees are not authorized in base facilities, except for housing, and must be maintained properly.


Maintain holiday lights

Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.

Do not overload electrical outlets

Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires - they should not be warm to the touch.

Do not leave holiday lights on unattended.


Use only nonflammable decorations

All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents. If using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.

Never put wrapping paper in the fireplace

Wrapping paper in the fireplace can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers that may result in a chimney fire.


Never leave a burning candle unattended

Consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look, smell and feel like real candles.

If using lit candles

Make sure candles are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn. Avoid using candles in bedrooms and sleeping areas.

Never put lit candles on a tree

Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame - candles, lighters or matches.

Join the 341st Fire and Emergency Services practice fire safety throughout the holidays; help ensure all loved ones have a safe and joyous holiday season.

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