Be safe this season

Published 10:28 pm Friday, December 13, 2019

The winter holidays are a great time to celebrate with family and friends — but unfortunately, they’re also the time when preventable home fires tend to increase.

As beautiful as our festive decorations are, the sad fact is that these decorations are the cause of many of these fires. Christmas trees, candles and other décor can cause fires when used improperly, and unattended cooking is another danger when the cook is distracted by visitors and merriment.

The Suffolk Department of Fire & Rescue recently released these tips for staying safe and fire-free this season. We encourage all of our readers to take heed. It’s not too late to make any changes needed — if you’re currently in violation of one of these tips, just because it hasn’t caused a problem yet doesn’t mean it won’t soon.

  • Test your smoke alarms and tell your guests about your home fire escape plan.
  • Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Place Christmas trees at least 3 feet from fireplaces, heating vents, wall furnaces and other heat-producing appliances that may dry out the tree.
  • Water live Christmas trees on a regular basis (trees should have fresh green needles) and dispose of them safely within 4 weeks of placing them.
  • Keep lit candles away from decorations and other things that can burn.
  • Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both. Check your labels carefully.
  • Replace any string lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections.
  • Connect no more than three strands of mini light sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Use extension cords with care and don’t place under rugs or in paths of travel.
  • Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.
  • Blow out lit candles when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Turn off all string lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Do not burn Christmas tree branches or wrapping paper in fireplaces. A flash fire may result, as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
  • Keep children and pets away from lit candles, and keep matches and lighters out of reach.
  • Stay in the kitchen while cooking on the stovetop.
  • Do not remove fireplace embers or ash while still hot, or if you do, place them in a metal container with a lid and cover them with water. Do not place them in a plastic or paper bag or other container that is not fire-resistant. Do not dispose of them indoors or close to your home or another structure.

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For more information on home fire safety, contact the Suffolk Fire & Rescue Department at 514-4550 or email