GFD urges fire safety during holiday season

Published 3:45 pm Thursday, December 1, 2011

Keeping a Christmas tree fully hydrated is the number one step to avoiding a holiday house fire. (Metro Creative Services)

The holidays typically bring pretty lights, good food and merry singing, but with the holidays comes the all-too-common problem of house fires.

Greenville Fire Department Chief Mike Phillips said this time of the year causes major problems in the place that people should feel the safest.

“Probably the biggest thing we see this time of year is space heaters,” Phillips said. “In years past people had fire places and old chimneys, but we don’t have many people using fire places now and they are in better condition.”

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The space heater itself is not the problem, according to Phillips. However, the problem usually stems from a user error.

“(People) usually have those thing too close to combustible materials like a bed, sofa or chair,” Phillips said.

Another major problem is people using the wrong extension chord and running it under furniture or a rug, which can start a fire as well.

As people begin to start hanging lights in and outside of homes, Phillips said it’s good to be conscious of whether the light was made for the outside or made for the inside.

“When they go to bed at night, people need to make sure all lights are unplugged and also when you leave home,” Phillips said. “Even those lights can overload and react and be electrical hazard as well. It’s just not a good idea to leave them on if something shorts out and you’re not there.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, smoke alarms should be changed every 10 years to ensure that they are up to date and working properly.

As far Christmas trees, keeping a tree fully hydrated is the number one step and the second step is to keep them away from space heaters and fireplaces, Phillips said.

“They need to make sure that they keep plenty of water on those trees,” Phillips said. “Wherever you place your Christmas tree in whatever room, make sure that the Christmas tree doesn’t block your way out in case it should catch on fire.”

In case there is an actual fire inside the house, Phillips said it is important to go back to basics and remember what we learned through elementary school.

“I think the biggest problem that we have, especially as adults, is that we forget the basic things that we learned as kids,” Phillips said. “We need to have a fire escape plan. Not only a plan for ourselves but share with the rest of the family.”

Communication is key and having two escape plans is necessary in case a fire does happen.

“We are supposed to talk about those things and make sure those exits work,” Phillips said. “It’s to make sure you have those things in place like your smoke alarm working and when they activate, everyone knows what to do doesn’t second guess it.”