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Stay fire safe this holiday

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bright lights on the Christmas tree, a festively decorated house, a warm fire in the fireplace. It is time to celebrate family, friends and the holy joy of the season.

It's also time to check the batteries in the smoke alarms and take some extra precautions to prevent a fire.

"Everyone should make sure there are fresh batteries in their smoke alarms," said Fire Chief Tom Jones. "Smoke alarms save lives."

With winter temperatures dropping, more people are starting to utilize fireplaces as an alternate source of heat.

"People should have their fireplace flues cleaned and checked annually," Jones said. "Burning wood allows for the build-up of creosote and is the one of the primary causes of wintertime fires. Typically, when a fire starts in the chimney flue, it will spread quickly to other parts of the home."

Jones also cautions area residents against using kerosene or propane heaters indoors.

"They are meant to be used outside or in well-ventilated areas such as a shop or garage," Jones said. "Unless the appliance is rated for indoor use, don't use it inside a home."

The improper use of kerosene or propane heaters can put off carbon monoxide, a deadly and odorless gas that can be fatal.

"Charcoal-burning units will also put off carbon monoxide gas and should never be used indoors," Jones said.

If there is an extended power outage, some people will turn to generators to provide power to their homes. Using a generator in an enclosed area, such as a house or garage, can also prove fatal.

"Carbon monoxide fumes from these units can seep into a house from a garage," Jones said. "Those units are best kept outside."

Space heaters are another common cause of house fires during the winter.

"People place them too close to the bed, curtains and other flammable material, and they ignite," Jones said. "People should use caution to keep children and pets away from these units as well, because the heated coils can cause serious injury."

Although people love to decorate in the spirit of the season, Jones cautions against overloading electrical outlets with too many plug-ins or extension cords.

"People use extension cords for their trees and then try to hide the cord under a rug," Jones said. "That causes the cords to become very hot and that can easily start a fire.

"Another typical scenario is people plugging a multiple outlet switch into a two-socket plug-in," he continued. "The wiring in some of these older houses can't handle four plugs. They get overheated and can spark a fire in the walls of the house."

Jones said that common sense and preventative maintenance are the keys to having a happy holiday season.

"Here at the Monett Fire Department, it is our hope that everyone has a warm, safe Christmas and New Year," Jones said.



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