Red Cross stresses home safety during holidays

Dec. 02, 2013 @ 03:55 PM

With the holiday season in full swing, the American Red Cross is advising people to take some necessary precautions to avoid a house fire.
According to statistics, nearly 47,000 fires occur during winter holidays, leading to more than 500 deaths, 2,200 injuries and $554 million in property damage every year. One of every 22 fires started by Christmas trees results in a death.
These statistics have been on the rise, as the number of house fires the American Red Cross has responded to since 2000 is up 10 percent.
"Since [Nov. 23], the Red Cross has responded to six home and apartment fires across the region," said Leigh Brock, regional communications director with the Red Cross. "The good news is that they don’t appear to be related They all happened in different counties and all had different causes. The bad news is that this is the time of year when home fires start to increase since people tend to stay inside more."
A primary defense to saving lives in a house fire is a working smoke alarm. The chance of a fire fatality is cut in half with the presence of a properly functioning smoke alarm. Christmas trees, candles and other holiday decorations should be kept at least three feet away from heat sources such as fireplaces, radiators, portable heaters and heat vents. Leigh recommends purchasing flame retardant or artificial trees. A family purchasing a real tree should make sure it's fresh and keep it moist by providing it plenty of water.
Holiday decorations and light strings need to be inspected to ensure they are in proper working order. Never use a cord that is frayed and always unplug a tree and holiday lights before going to bed. Children and pets should be kept away from trees and avoid using lit candles to decorate the tree. Candles fires are four times as likely to occur during the holiday season.
"People use heat sources incorrectly," Brock said. "Plus, the holidays bring fire hazards from decorations and cooking accidents."
People also need to take precautions when preparing holiday meals. Keep anything flammable away from stove tops. Smoke alarms should be installed in the kitchen, near sleeping areas and on each level of a home. Test the alarm once a month and change out the batteries annually.
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Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or