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Fire up Yule logs, candles - not house

By Lewis Everett | 37th Civil Engineer Squadron | Dec. 7, 2006

Lackland Air Force Base, Texas — Someone once said, "The trouble with fire is people." Clearly this saying implies people are the cause of most fires - an implication that is true. Each year the Air Force loses thousands of dollars worth of property because of fires.

Although there were minimal reportable material losses, and no injuries or deaths as a result of fires on Lackland during fiscal year 2006, it is not uncommon to see more fires, injuries and deaths occur during this season than during any other time.

People get caught up in the holiday spirit and forget fire safety, a misstep that can change happy holidays to sad days.

-Cut a growing tree or buy one which has not dried out from prolonged storage. The bigger the tree, the greater the hazard.
-Place the trunk of the tree in water until you're ready to bring it inside.
-Prior to setting up the tree, saw off the trunk, making a long, diagonal cut across the base. This will allow maximum moisture intake and help prevent it from drying out.
-Keep the tree in water or moist sand while inside the house.
-Trees should be placed in the coolest part of the room, never close to space heaters or directly in front of heating ducts, and have enough base support to hold them upright.
-If choosing an artificial tree, use care in selecting and handling it. Plastic trees can burn. Those with built-in electrical systems should have the label of an independent testing laboratory such as Underwriters' (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM). Metal trees aren't a fire hazard but may be a shock hazard so use only indirect lighting on them.

-Use non-combustible materials when possible. Untreated batting, flock and paper ignite easily and burn intensely.
-Don't use polystyrene foam for candle holders or other decorations when candles are used. It's highly combustible.
-Dispose of gift wrappings promptly. Place them in a metal, covered container.
-Check lighting sets for frayed cords, loose connections and broken sockets. Don't use them if damaged.
-Be sure the fuse in the circuit serving the tree and other lighting isn't over 15 amperes. Cord sets with a fuse in the plug are recommended as long as they're approved by an independent testing laboratory.
-if you plan extensive wiring, call a competent electrician instead of trying it yourself. For outdoor lighting, use only sets listed for outdoor use.
-Make sure all tree and other indoor lights are unplugged before going to bed or leaving the house or facility.
-Don't use multiple electrical receptacles for lighting because they could overheat and cause a fire.

-Limit groups of people to the number approved for the facility.
-Make sure exits aren't blocked or obscured by decorations, cables or other obstructions.
-Don't use lighted candles or other open-flame devices for decorative purposes.
-Ensure sufficient fire extinguishers are in place and accessible before the start of a program or activity.

-Avoid pyroxylin plastic toys or dolls. Toys operated by kerosene, gasoline or alcohol are especially dangerous. They may spill and set fire to children's clothing, the tree or the house itself.
-Electrical toys should have the label of an independent testing laboratory.
Other reminders
-Don't allow smoking near the tree amidst decorations and wrappings. Have plenty of large ashtrays around and use them.
-Supervise small children playing near the tree. Keep matches, lighters and candles out of their reach.
-Above all, have a fire emergency plan. Select alternate escape routes from every room. If fire strikes, clear everyone out of the house, then call the fire department. Fight the fire only if you can do so safely, keeping an exit route open.

Think ahead to help keep the holidays safe and happy.