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Monday
December 09th, 2019

home decor safety plugsMisuse of power strips can lead to fires during the holiday season. While decorating is part of the holidays, it can lead to tragedy if proper steps are not taken to make the displays safe. Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

December has officially arrived, which means soon, many people will be preparing their homes to be festive both inside and outside. For those preparing those holly jolly decorations, however, there are some safety precautions to keep in mind. 

“The first thing is trees. If you have a live tree, be sure to keep it watered and don't let it dry out at all because then you've basically turned your tree into tinder,” Liberal Fire Department firefighter Jeremy Paris said. “If you have a fake tree, make sure it's fire retardant so it doesn't catch fire as fast or as bad as it could. There are also ornaments on the market that serve double duty as a fire extinguishing agent and has the powder it in – the gentleman who had developed it was an NYC firefighter and presented that on the show 'The Next Big Inventor' and during the demonstration, it was almost a full blaze and this ornament was able to put out the whole thing.”

“Also be sure to inspect your lights, make sure they're in good condition and make sure there aren't any wires exposed or anything because that can cause a lot of problems and we do hear some of those stories every year too from people who thought they were okay because their lights had been sitting in their box in the attic or the garage,” fellow Liberal Fire Department firefighter Kevin Altamirano added. “But it's important to inspect them and see what shape they're in. Overloading sockets is also something people will want to avoid – even during our building inspections we're looking if people have heaters plugged in to extension cords and things like that, but with things like that, as much as possible, those should go directly into the outlet because extension cords aren't actually meant to handle that sort of output for an extended period of time.”

Altamirano also talked about safety with the bigger outdoor displays. 

“A big thing is with the technological capabilities we have today, people can actually set timers on their lights to make sure they get turned off. As pretty as it is to drive down the streets in the dark and see all the pretty lights and displays, having them on past 11 p.m. or midnight, that's just not a good thing,” Altamirano said. “And we know people have good intentions to remember, but things do happen and it can slip their minds, so if you think you'll forget to go outside to turn off the lights even just once, make sure your display's set up with a timer and it should all be okay. And like Jeremy was saying with the trees and heaters, another big cause of fires with Christmas trees is having the tree too close to a heating source, so keep your tree away from things like that.”

“And keep decorations off of any dead trees/shrubs you have in your yard because that's a major fire hazard similar to if you leave your tree unwatered,” Paris said. “They look pretty, but you're really almost just setting a match to the tree. And don't put any decorations on the roof if there's snow on it. I actually fell off the roof of my house when I was younger because I was told to put lights up there, but I ultimately slipped and fell off. And if you do have to go on the roof or another high part of the house, have someone there to spot you and keep the ladder steady and things like that because you want to be as safe as possible while you're getting all of that together, you don't want to be hanging off the roof. And make sure your ladders and those things are also in good condition.”

Overall, both Paris and Altamirano said, Christmas Day is quiet in Liberal for the department, and both said they hope this year continues that trend. 

“In a perfect world, there'd be no calls for us for that day because Christmas is a time to be with family and friends and we don't want that to be ruined by anything,” Paris said. “But like every other day, we will be prepared for any calls that do come in that day. We want everyone to be safe and don't want any fires or things like that to happen. In my time with the fire department, I can't recall any incident we were called on Christmas Day itself, we see more incidents leading up to Christmas and/or right after Christmas.”

“One of the first years I was on the department, we were called to fires three days in a row, and those were actually caused by heaters in pet houses outside. And while this is off the topic, if you know it's going to be cold outside and if you can manage all the logistics, go ahead and bring the pet(s) inside, and it will minimize that risk,” Altamirano added. “And this is also slightly off the topic, but something else to keep in mind is this time of the year can be hard for people with depression and things like that, and it can set the tone for the coming year. So we want everyone to go through the holidays with as little stress as possible and we want everyone to enjoy the company they'll be having.”

Overall, Altamirano and Paris agreed, the important thing is for people to stay safe and have a happy holiday season. 

“And if you have candles, be mindful of those too because there are stories about those being left unattended and then the fire starts,” Altamirano said. “And if you're planning a somewhat simpler display than your neighbor, that is just fine, don't turn that into a turf war or something like that because (a) it's just not worth it and (b) there's the fire hazards to consider with all of those lights being plugged in. And like Jeremy said, stay safe and have a happy holiday season with the friends and family you'll be with.”

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