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Alarm Box: 'Tis the season — for household fires

This is the time of year that we turn on heaters, stoke the fire and light candles to ward off the long nights. During the holidays, it’s tragic to have a home fire, but it’s all too common. We want you to be diligent and mindful of heat sources, candles, lights and the family tree to keep your home and family safe this winter.

Here’s a list of a few things that you can do to ensure your home or apartment is as safe as possible:

Smoke Alarms: Place smoke alarms in each bedroom and in the hall leading to each bedroom on each floor of your home. Make sure your smoke alarms are working by testing them monthly. Never disable them or remove their batteries except for annually replacing the batteries on models that have removable batteries. If you own the newer 10-year smoke detectors follow the manufacturer’s instructions on replacement of unit.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms: If you have a carbon monoxide source such as gas, oil or wood or a door that leads from the garage to your house, you should have carbon monoxide alarms near your bedrooms. If you reside in a rental, or are renting a home to someone else, Oregon law requires carbon monoxide alarms be installed.

Cooking: Cooking is the number-one cause of home fires, and this is the time of year that we see an upswing. The number-one preventative action in keeping your home and family safe from the risk of cooking fires is to never leave anything cooking unattended. Frying poses the greatest risk, so keep an eye on your oil and know how to properly extinguish an oil fire — and never throw water on an oil fire. Keep your eyes on the stove and don’t get distracted by texts, the kids or TV.

Portable Space Heaters: Keep these at least 3 feet from all combustibles such as curtains, clothes, towels, newspapers and boxes. Space heaters are meant to be used as a temporary heating sources in small spaces. They are not meant to be the sole source of heating a home. Never leave them on when unattended or when you’re not at home. Do not attempt to heat your entire home solely with a space heater. If your heat source fails, NEVER use an outdoor appliance, like a propane heater, as an indoor heat source.

Candles: Battery operated candles are much safer. There are some very realistic looking battery powered candles on the market today, and they pose no open flame threat. If you can’t part with the wax candle and flame, assure it is not near combustibles (paper, fabric, curtains, books, wood) and do not leave the room or go to sleep while the candle is burning. We have seen many candles start fires here in Ashland. If you have ever left the house or a room with a candle burning, maybe it’s time to make the switch to battery operated candles.

Christmas Trees: Annually, Christmas tree fires account for more than 25 percent of preventable home fires. Cut trees are dead and highly combustible. When stringing the tree lights, be certain they are not frayed or otherwise damaged. Throw away damaged lights as they can cause fires. Keep water in the stand at all times to keep the tree’s moisture high – a well-watered tree is much less flammable. Also, keep heat sources and candles at least 3 feet from the tree. And when your tree starts dropping needles, get rid of it!

From all of us at Ashland Fire & Rescue, have a safe and joyful holiday season!

Check our website at www.ashland.or.us/holiday for more helpful tips.

Reach Ashland Fire & Rescue Division Chief/Fire Marshal Ralph Sartain via email at ralph.sartain@ashland.or.us. The Alarm Box, a column with local public safety information, appears triweekly in the Tidings.

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