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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday Safety - Candles

The fire service has seen an increase in home fires over the past dozen years with the popularity and increased use of candles.  During the Holiday Season candles play an important role in religious celebrations and home use is at an all time high.  Several University of Maryland students were displaced from their off-campus apartment earlier this month after an unattended religious candle display ignited a larger fire.  December is the peak time of year for home candle fires.  In December, across the country, 13% of home candle fires begin with decorations compared to 4% the rest of the year.

The Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department is providing safety tips from the United States Fire Administration to help keep Safety Fires to ensure everyone goes home.

Causes and Circumstances of Home Candle Fires

  • On average, 42 home candle fires are reported every day.
  • More than half of all candle fires start when something that could burn, such as furniture, mattresses or bedding, curtains, or decorations is too close to the candle.
  • In one-fifth (20%) of candle fires, the candles are unattended or abandoned.
  • Over one-third (36%) of home candle fires begin in the bedroom.
  • Falling asleep is a factor in 12% of home candle fires and 36% of the associated deaths.
  • December is the peak time of year for home candle fires.  In December, 13% of home candle fires begin with decorations compared to 4% the rest of the year.
  • One-half of home candle fire deaths occur between Midnight and 6 am.
  • Young children and older adults have the highest death risk from candle fires.
  • The risk of fatal candle fires appears higher when candles are used for light.
Sources: NFIRS, NFPA

Candle Safety Tips

Put candles in sturdy metal, glass, or ceramic holders.
Put candles in sturdy metal, glass or ceramic holders.
  • Consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look, smell and fell like real candles
  • If you do use candles, ensure they are in sturdy metal, glass or ceramic holders and placed where they cannot be easily knocked down.
  • Avoid using candles in bedrooms and sleeping areas.
  • Extinguish candles after use and before going to bed.
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn.
  • Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Set a good example by using matches, lighters and fire carefully.
  • Children should never be allowed to play with matches, lighters or candles.
  • Never use a candle where medical oxygen is being used. The two can combine to create a large, unexpected fire.
  • Always use a flashlight – not a candle – for emergency lighting.
  • Never put candles on a Christmas tree.
  • When using in home worship, don't place lit candles in windows, where blinds and curtains can close over them, or pass handheld candles from one person to another. To lower the risk of fire, candles should be used by only a few designated adults.
  • And NEVER leave burning candles unattended!
Remember!  Candle fires are PREVENTABLE!
In the event of a fire, remember time is the biggest enemy and every second counts!
Escape first, and then call for help. Develop a home fire escape plan and practice it frequently with
your family.  Designate a meeting place outside. Make sure everyone in the family knows two ways to escape from every room.
Never stand up in a fire, always crawl low under the smoke, and try to keep your mouth covered. Never return to a burning building for any reason: it may cost you your life.
Finally, as in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Know when and how to call for help. And remember to practice your home escape plan.  

The Prince George's County Safety First Program will provide County residents with a working smoke alarm and install it for you, free of charge.  Simply call our Safety First Smoke Alarm Program at 301-864-SAFE (7233).

Holiday Safety - Christmas Trees

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930
With the Christmas Holiday less then a week away most decorations have been selected and are now on bright display and being enjoyed.  Christmas trees have been selected and decorated with a variety of lights, tinsel and other traditional and personal items.  The men and women of the Prince George's County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department are providing some good common-sense safety tips to help keep you safe.  Unfortunately, in early January of this year, firefighters witnessed the devastation a dry tree can cause when it catches fire.  A Brandywine family lost their home and the majority of their belongings after their dried out tree ignited.
Once again we are partnering with the United States Fire Administration (USFA) in providing these safety tips for the care of your tree to help avoid a tragedy.
Decorating homes and businesses is a long-standing tradition around the holiday season. Unfortunately, these same decorations may increase your chances of fire. Based on data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), an estimated 240 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 150 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year. Together, these fires result in 21 deaths and $25.2 million in direct property damage.
Following a few simple fire safety tips can keep electric lights, candles, and the ever popular Christmas tree from creating a tragedy. Learn how to prevent a fire and what to do in case a fire starts in your home. Make sure all exits are accessible and not blocked by decorations or trees. Help ensure that you have a fire safe holiday season.

Christmas Trees

What’s a traditional Christmas morning scene without a beautifully decorated tree? If your household includes a natural tree in its festivities, take to heart the sales person’s suggestion – “Keep the tree watered.”
Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires annually. Typically, shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches start tree fires. Well-watered trees are not a problem. A dry and neglected tree can be.

Dry Tree vs. High Moisture Tree Fire

This dramatic clip illustrates what happens when fire touches a dry tree and a properly maintained, well-watered tree.

Additional Video Formats, Transcript

VOB, 95.2 MBBroadcast Quality Clip (VOB, 95.2 MB)

Selecting a Tree for the Holidays

Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long and, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.

Caring for Your Tree

Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

Disposing of Your Tree

Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.

An every day of the year reminder to have working smoke alarms and if needed, a carbon monoxide detector, in your home to protect you, your family and visitors.  Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home, primarily outside of sleeping areas and if you sleep with your bedroom door closed; install a working smoke alarm inside of your bedroom as well.  Test all alarms monthly on the first day of the month and replace batteries at least once-a-year.
Prince George's County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor stated, "The common denominator with all of the holiday events and religious celebrations is for everyone to keep Safety First to ensure everyone goes home.  On behalf of all the career, civilian and volunteer members of the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department, we wish everyone a happy and safe holiday!!!"