Tips from the Oregon State Fire Marshal

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO  - Maintain your holiday lights. Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, and broken or cracked sockets.With the holiday season in full swing, Oregon State Fire Marshal Mark Wallace cautions everyone to keep fire safety in mind when decorating and entertaining.

“This should be a happy and exciting time of year, but don’t let that distract you from keeping your family and friends safe from fire,” Wallace said. “By following a few important safety tips for Christmas trees, decorations and candles, you can help ensure your holidays remain happy.”

From 2007 through 2011, Oregon fires related to Christmas trees and decorations resulted in 116 fires and more than $4.2 million in property loss. Candle-related fires during this same period caused even more damage. From 2007 through 2011, there were 366 candle-related fires in Oregon causing seven deaths, 55 injuries and more than $9.4 million in property loss.

Tree care and decorating tips

  • Choose a fresh, healthy tree with a deep-green color and flexible needles.

  • When you get the tree home, cut off the bottom two inches of the trunk. This creates a fresh, raw cut for the tree to soak up water.

  • Water your tree daily. A tree may consume between a quart and a gallon of water per day.

  • Place the tree at least three feet away from any heat source such as a fireplace, woodstove, heating duct or radiator.

  • Keep lighted candles away from the tree.

  • Use only non-combustible or flame resistant materials to trim a tree.

  • Always unplug tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

  • If using a woodstove or fireplace, keep it screened at all times. Keep ribbons, boughs and other decorative materials at least three feet away.

  • After the holiday season, promptly dispose of the tree and other greenery before it dries out. Burning a tree in a stove or fireplace is dangerous; proper disposal includes recycling or pick-up by a disposal service.

  • Maintain your holiday lights. Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots and broken or cracked sockets.

  • Do not overload electrical sockets. Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe.

    Candle safety

    A safe alternative is to use battery operated, flameless candles which can look, smell and feel like real candles. However, if you decide to use real candles, follow these safety tips:

  • Never leave a burning candle unattended. Extinguish candles when you go to bed, leave a room or before leaving the house.

  • Keep candles away from things that burn. Keep candles at least one foot away from combustibles including clothing, curtains, upholstered furniture, greenery and decorations.

  • Always use a sturdy non-combustible (metal, glass, or ceramic) candle holder. Make sure the candleholder is big enough to catch dripping wax.

  • Place candles out of reach of small children and pets.

  • Keep candles out of high traffic areas.

  • Trim wicks to one-quarter inch before lighting.

  • Avoid candles with items embedded in them such as twigs, flowers or leaves. These items can ignite or even explode.

  • Always use a flashlight for emergency lighting.

    General fire safety

  • Make sure you have working smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside each sleeping area and in each bedroom.

  • Make a home fire escape plan and practice it with the whole family.

  • Keep escape routes clear of clutter so you can escape quickly in case of fire.

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