DEARBORN HEIGHTS — With the holiday season in full swing, the Dearborn Heights Fire Department is urging residents to be careful and aware when it comes to their holiday plans.
According to Dearborn Heights Fire Chief David Brogan and Fire Marshal Max Mitts, holiday fires kill or injure upward of 2,000 individuals and cause more than $900 million in damage annually.
Brogan said that one of the greatest holiday threats is the careless use of live Christmas trees.
“Speaking from a fire prevention standpoint, we would, of course, prefer that every tree in every home were fireproof, but that’s just not the case,” he said. “The tradition of decorating a real tree for the holidays is a tradition that will never change for many, in spite of the increased risk of fire.”
For those who do use real trees, Brogan recommends making sure the tree is fresh. To tell if a tree is fresh, needles should be green and hard to pull from the branches and should not break when bent. If any needles fall off when the truck is bounced on the ground, that means the tree is likely dried out and was cut a long time ago. Fresh tree trunks should also be sticky to the touch.
Brogan also recommends keeping the tree away from sources of heat or flames as they dry trees out quickly, making them easier to catch fire by heat, flame or sparks. It’s also important to keep the tree stand full of water at all times and not smoke near the tree.
Even if a tree is fresh when put up, it shouldn’t be left up longer than two weeks.
Mitts and Brogan also remind residents to check all holiday lights carefully for frayed wires, bare spots, broken or cracked sockets or excessive wear. They recommend replacing any lights in this condition and only use lighting that displays the approval of an approved testing laboratory, such as Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM).
We want everyone to have a safe and happy holiday season, but please do it carefully and with some good common sense. — Dearborn Heights Fire Chief David Brogan
When lights are lit, it is recommended to not leave them unattended for extended periods of time.
The department also recommends choosing decorations carefully and making sure that they are flame-resistant and avoid things like dried moss, leaves, straw, corn stalks, cotton, paper streamers or wood bark and shavings.
When it comes to plugging in decorations and lights, it’s important to not overload electrical outlets. Generally, no more than three light strands should be linked safely, unless the directions indicate it is safe to link more, connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet and don’t run lights or wires behind drapes, under carpets or through doorways.
The department also said to unwrap gifts with care and to not unwrap near open sources of flames or discard printed, foil or coated wrapping paper in a fireplace as it could throw off dangerous sparks and produce chemical gases that could be hazardous.
The department is also reminding residents to be careful with candles and making sure they are not kept where they can be easily knocked over or on or near a tree. Care with candles should be exercised at all times of the year.
Cooking with care is also important by not leaving pots or burners unattended, keeping the cooking area uncluttered and keeping children and pets away from the stove.
Holiday plants such as mistletoe, holly berries, poinsettias and Christmas cactus can also be a hazard to children and pets if ingested.
Brogan and Mitts also urge that everyone have working smoke alarms installed on every level of the home and test them regularly — not just during the holiday season, but year round. They also recommend having household fire extinguishers placed in strategic areas throughout the home.
“Many times, we find that both fires and household accidents are the result of folks simply getting a little too rushed and overlooking something they shouldn’t have,” Brogan said. “Particularly during this busy time of the year, it is important to just step back for a moment and collect your thoughts before rushing into your activities. We want everyone to have a safe and happy holiday season, but please do it carefully and with some good common sense.”