With winter and the holiday season in full swing, it’s the perfect time to take some simple steps to help protect your family and property from fire.  Here are some tips:                  

– Never run electrical wires, including extension cords, under carpets or rugs as this creates a fire hazard (as well as a tripping hazard)!

– Check holiday lights for fraying or broken wires and plugs.  Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines as to how many strands can be joined together, so you won’t create an overload on the circuit, creating a fire hazard.  Also check lamps, appliances and other electronics for frayed cords, loose or broken plugs and exposed wiring.

– Never leave burning candles unattended, even for a short time. A safer option is to use battery operated candles, which these days look very much like real candles!  Be sure to turn off all candles and holiday lights prior to leaving the house or going to bed.

– Keep live Christmas trees in a water-filled stand and check daily for dehydration. Brown or lots of fallen needles indicate a dangerously dried-out tree that could catch on fire easily and quickly.  If your tree is in this condition it should be discarded immediately.

– Have your fireplace checked by a professional chimney sweep each year and cleaned if necessary, to prevent a dangerous buildup of creosote, which can cause a flash fire in the chimney.

– Keep space heaters away from beds, bedding, curtains, paper and anything else that is flammable. Space heaters should not be left unattended while in use or where a child or pet could knock them over.  Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and cautions for use.

– Put fresh batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

– Be prepared and aware while cooking.  Cooking is the leading cause of house fires.  Grease spills, items left unattended on the stove or in the oven, and food left in toasters or toaster ovens can catch fire quickly. Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher, as well as an extinguisher specifically made for grease and cooking fires within easy reach.

– Have an escape plan and make sure all family members know it, and know how to dial 911 in case of a fire or other emergency.