Prevent holiday fires by using ‘common sense’
by Staff Writer
Unattended cooking causes 90-95 percent of all house fires across the U.S., and the numbers spike during the holidays, according to Charlotte Firefighter, Jeremy Jones, and Assistant Fire Marshall for Mecklenburg County, Jeff Bostian.
“People cook with oils and turn on the grease, leaving it unattended. If you can’t watch while cooking, then you don’t need to be cooking,” said Jones, a Cornelius resident.
Jones also was a volunteer firefighter for Gilead Fire Department in Huntersville during his high school years.
“One of the biggest fires I went to was for a family who turned on the grease to cook, went to the garage and forgot about it. Their two kids were upstairs asleep. Fortunately, they saved their kids but lost their home and dog,” he said.
“Have an ABC, multi-class, dry-chemical fire extinguisher in your kitchen. Several fires in this area have been saved by people having small fire extinguishers in their kitchens.”
Bostian also volunteers at Matthews Fire Department. He reiterates Jones’ advice.
“Have a lid nearby to cover the pan. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire or pick up the pan – That can spread the fire.”
Bostian said large turkey fryers are safe when used properly.
“Keep the oil below the recommended temperature, and ensure the meat is fully thawed with no moisture on it,” he said. “For any open flame cooking device, keep it at least 10 feet from a structure.”
Bostian and Jones said it’s important to check smoke and carbon monoxide alarms by testing them monthly and when it’s time to change clocks for daylight savings time. Change the batteries at least once a year, even in newer homes with interconnected, electronically powered smoke alarms. They have battery back-ups.
“When using holiday lighting,” said Jones, “just water your trees; dry trees go up insanely fast. Don’t leave candles unattended or close to combustible materials. Ensure they’re fully extinguished and not within a child’s reach.”
“For holiday lighting, ensure you’re using heavy extension cords or power strips, which are preferable. And unplug them when leaving home or going to bed.”
“And be careful when hanging lights on exterior locations of your home,” Jones added. “A Carolinas Medical Center nurse told me falls from ladders and roofs are common occurrences during the holidays.”
In addition, both firemen remind you to have fireplaces and wood stoves cleaned and inspected once a year, and don’t leave fireplaces or woodstoves unattended.
When cleaning, put ashes in metal containers, thoroughly soak and stir the ashes and let them stand outdoors for a couple of days. Embers can stay live for three or four days.
“Space heaters need space,” cautions Bostian. “Give them at least 3 feet of space from combustible materials and unplug them when leaving home.”
“Holiday safety is all about using common sense,” reminds Jones. “Please use your common sense.”