Winter and holiday fire safety tips

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Opinion: Letters to the editor

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By Bob McDermott

In the past two months, the village of Forest Park experienced two significant fires in residential buildings. Thankfully, everyone was able to get out on their own and no one was injured. As the weather starts to get colder, I'd like to take a moment and talk about fire safety. Residential fires occur more in the winter than any other time of the year. As you stay warm this winter season, be fire smart! 

According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), half of all residential heating fires occur in the months of December, January and February. Space heaters, accounted for 40% of home heating fires and 84% of home heating fire deaths. Here are some safety tips to prevent heating fires:

  •  Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace or space heater.
  •  Have a 3-foot "kid-free zone" around open fires and space heaters.
  •  Never use your oven to heat your home.
  •  Have heating equipment cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional.
  •  Remember to turn off portable heaters when leaving a room or going to bed.

Candles are very popular all year round but more so during the holidays. December is the peak time of year for home candle fires. If you decide to use candles, be sure that you:

  •  Blow candles out when you leave the room or go to bed. Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may sleep because 1/3 of all candle fires start in the bedroom.
  •  Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.
  •  Never leave a child or pet alone in a room with a burning candle.
  •  Never use a candle if oxygen is used in the home.
  •  Consider using flameless candles instead. They look and smell like real candles.
  • We are now half way through the month of November which means the holiday season is right around the corner. Here are a few tips to ensure that you and your family will have a fire-safe holiday season.
  •  Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.
  •  Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections.
  •  Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.
  •  If you use a fresh tree, be sure to water it daily.
  •  Always turn off Christmas tree lights before going to bed or leaving home.

Finally, make sure you have enough smoke detectors in your home. Fires spread much more rapidly than ever before. Install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors monthly. 

Make and practice a fire escape plan. By following these fire prevention tips you can greatly reduce the risk of fire in your home and enjoy a safe winter and holiday season. If you have any questions, please call us at 708-366-1234.

Bob McDermott is chief of the Forest Park Fire Department.

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