With holiday celebrations around the corner, Rocky View County (RVC) Fire Services is reminding residents to observe fire-safety practices during this busy season.
“We want everybody to have fun, we want them to enjoy the holiday season…but what we say is, just take that extra moment and make sure that you enjoy it in a safe manner,” said Marcus Weckesser, Rocky View County Fire Services district chief and fire marshal.
With Christmas parties and large meals occurring during the holidays, the kitchen can be one potential source of fires, Weckesser said.
“If you’re cooking in the kitchen, one of the precautions that we like to mention to people is, don’t get distracted,” he said. “If the phone rings in another room, turn the oven off.”
Another potential source of fires is heating equipment. Families should ensure any space heaters they may use are in good working condition, Weckesser said, and should always be plugged directly into an outlet, not an extension cord or a power bar. Because this equipment uses so much power, he said, plugging directly into the outlet helps ensure there are no electrical shorts or sparking issues. Cords should also not be placed under carpets or through doorways where they can get pinched.
Space heaters should have at least three feet of space on all sides, to prevent nearby items from heating up and igniting, Weckesser noted. They should also always be turned off when residents leave the room.
For those who utilize fireplaces, Weckesser said basic fire-safety principles apply – never leave the fire unattended, have a responsible adult monitor the fire at all times and always make sure it is fully extinguished before going to bed or leaving the house. Wrapping paper and cardboard boxes should not be burned, and parents and pet owners should pay special attention to curious children and animals, to ensure no one is playing with fire and items aren't left against heat sources, he said. Similar steps should be taken when lighting candles or having outdoor fires.
“Those general safety tips apply for the winter, as well,” Weckesser said. “A lot of times we think, ‘Oh, it’s wintertime, it’s cold and we have snow on the ground,’ but that’s not necessarily the case between now and Christmas.”
There are always possibilities of chinooks, which may melt snow and dry out the ground, he said, leading to increased risk of grass fires, even in the winter.
When decorating outdoors, make sure to only use electrical equipment, such as lights and extension cords, that is meant to stand up to the elements, he said. Indoor cords are not designed to sit in cold and wet conditions, which could lead to sparking. Any lights hung outdoors should be fastened with clips, not nails that can strip the cord’s coating.
Indoors, choose fire-resistant decorations and keep them away from heat sources, he said. Live trees, in particular, should be kept away from heating elements to ensure they don’t dry out and become a possible ignition source.
“If you’re using a natural tree, make sure that you water it daily, because it can suck down that water pretty quick,” Weckesser said.
Christmas is also an opportune time to test smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors to ensure they are working well, he said. Anyone with visiting guests should also take time to fill them in on escape plans in case an emergency does occur.
“When you have guests over, just let them know about how you intend to act in a fire – what is your home escape plan,” he said. “That puts everybody on the same page.”
More than anything, Weckesser advised, it’s important to stay alert and be aware of what is going on in your house and where potential fire hazards are.
While he said there isn’t any particular spikes in fires during the holiday season in RVC, he added, “I think we’re quite fortunate in that regard.”