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Town Talk: Fire safety during the holiday season

During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I want to remind everyone to keep fire prevention and safety in mind. Between 2013-2017, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 160 home structure fires annually that started with Christmas trees, and they responded to an average of 780 home structure fires that began with other decorations. In addition, cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home injuries.

Start with choosing a fresh Christmas tree. Make sure needles are not falling off the tree before you bring it home. Cut 2″ from the base of the tree before placing it in the stand and always make sure to add water daily. Place the tree at least 3 feet away from all heat sources like heat vents, lights, fireplaces, radiators and candles which can ignite or quickly dry out your tree. When thinking of where to place the tree, make sure your tree is not blocking an exit. When decorating the tree, read labels as some lights are specifically for indoor or outdoor use only. Do not use lights with worn, broken cords or loose connections and always turn off the lights before leaving or going to bed. After Christmas, dispose of or recycle your tree promptly. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and can cause a small fire to grow very quickly.

In addition to Christmas trees, other decorations can be dangerous if proper precautions are not taken. More than one-third of home decoration fires are started by candles and more than two of every five decoration fires happen because decorations are too close to a heat source. Keep candles away from other items that can burn and choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant. Always blow out candles when you leave the room or go to sleep.

Holiday preparation also includes cooking and baking. The leading cause of kitchen fires is unattended cooking. It’s important to stay in the kitchen when cooking and to use a timer when you are cooking or baking. Be mindful to keep items like oven mitts, wooden utensils, towels, etc. away from the stovetop as they can catch fire by touching a hot burner. If you have a small cooking fire, slide a lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Leave the pan covered until completely cooled. If you have an oven fire, turn off the oven and keep the oven door closed. If you have any doubt about fighting a small fire, just get out! Alert family members to exit the house and call 9-1-1.

We encourage everyone to take time to think about fire prevention and safety. We hope these simple reminders will keep you and your family safe this holiday season and every season.

Data reproduced from NFPA’s website, www.nfpa.org/publiceducation. © NFPA.

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Editor’s Note: The City of New Ulm presents a weekly column highlighting activities in different departments in the city government. Once a month the city will answer questions from readers. Questions on New Ulm city issues can be sent to comments@ci.new-ulm.mn.us.

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