I love this time of year! The summer is when I love to be outdoors, but I love everything the holiday season brings — great food, snow in the mountains, decorations, parties, friends and family. It’s the time of year to give thanks and show generosity. This time of year also brings opportunities for all prevention and safety efforts. This is a great time of year to work on outdoor fire prevention and fuels reduction since the fire hazard is greatly reduced, and there’s a myriad of indoor fire prevention efforts to make.
We know that home fires can happen at any time, and this is the time of year that those statistics seem to be inflated. We are cooking inside more, using heating appliances, can be distracted by family and friends, and we might even use decorations that could be a potential threat to our home and family.
According to the Oregon State Fire Marshal, during the months of November and December, chimney and cooking fires account for almost half of home fires during the period evaluated from 2011-2015. I’m suggesting that we can prevent most all of these fires simply by cleaning our chimneys and watching our cooking.
Candles, holiday decorations, light strings and Christmas trees can also create a hazard and accounted for about 4 percent of the fires during that period of time. And again, I think we (that’s you and me) have the potential to prevent most of these fires.
Here are a few tips on how we can work together to prevent home fires:
• Have chimneys and vents cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional at least once a year.
• Burn only dry, seasoned wood to create less creosote buildup in the chimney.
• Use only newspaper and kindling or fire started. Never use flammable liquids, wrapping paper or pine boughs in the fireplace or woodstove.
• Heat cooking oil slowly.
• Never leave cooking food unattended.
• Keep anything that can catch fire away from the stove top.
• Always keep a lid nearby when cooking. If a small fire starts in a pan, smother the flames by placing the lid on the pan, and turn off the burner.
• Never leave candles burning when not in the room. Better yet, use battery operated candles.
• Test smoke alarms monthly and never leave them disconnected.
One more thing to keep your home intact — water pipes. You’re right, we don’t usually see these catch on fire, but we do see frozen and broken water lines from time to time. Make sure that you check your water lines for proper insulation. Keep your thermostat set to a low 40-50 degree temperature even when you are travelling. If you have a water line that you are concerned about, and we are approaching low freezing temperatures, just turn on a tap to allow a little bit of water to drip. This will keep the water moving and prevent freezing.
If you have a fire sprinkler system, make sure the insulation is still laying on top of the pipe in the attic. Sometimes the insulation gets moved when work is done in the attic.
Ashland Fire & Rescue wishes you a very safe and enjoyable holiday season. While we are here to help you, we hope you don’t need us!
The Alarm Box, a column with local public safety information, appears triweekly in the Tidings. Margueritte Hickman is a division chief/fire marshal with Ashland Fire & Rescue. Email topic suggestions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.