UAB, Madison firefighters urge fire safety measures during the holidays

MADISON – Most people consider the Christmas and New Year’s holidays as their favorite time of the year, but these weeks also can be one of the most dangerous times.

Unattended candles cause two out of five fires from home decorations, according to the United States Fire Administration. Electrical problems ignite one in four fires of Christmas trees.

In addition, Madison Fire and Rescue Department urges individuals to have an exit plan from their house in case of fire. One safety measure is installing smoke detectors inside and outside bedrooms. Families should decide on a safe place to meet after exiting a house on fire. (Facebook/Madison Fire and Rescue)

The Environmental Health and Safety Department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham has compiled several common-sense cautions to observe:

* Allow space for heat sources – Avoid placing Christmas trees close to heat sources. The Red Cross recommends keeping trees, candles and other decorations, like rugs and wrapping paper, at least three feet from fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, candles and heat vents.

* Mind your Christmas tree — The best way to prevent tree fires is to purchase a flame-retardant metallic or artificial tree, according to the Red Cross. For a live tree, be sure its needles are fresh, green and don’t break easily.

* Cooking cautions – The Red Cross advises holiday cooks to keep stoves clear without flammables nearby, like potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper plates, plastic bags and towels. The National Fire Protection Association claims most kitchen fires result from unattended items that are cooking. Do not use a stove if you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol.

* Read the instructions – Never overload strands of Christmas lights. Read the manufacturer’s instructions before decorating and replace strands with frayed cords.

* Use space heaters responsibly – Buy a heater with automatic shut-off and tip-over protection. Don’t use extension cords. “Space heaters are involved in nearly 80 percent of fatal home fires,” Robert Emmons, UAB campus safety manager, said. UAB policy requires heating elements on space heaters not to exceed 212 degrees F.

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