The Carroll County Office of Public Safety and Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association offer these fire prevention tips for the holidays and during the winter:
Holiday Fire Safety
Never put a tree close to a heat source and never put holiday tree branches or needles in a wood-burning stove or fireplace.
Do not leave holiday lights, candles, fireplaces or space heaters unattended. Turn off lights and heaters, put out fires and blow out candles before leaving the house.
Never burn candles near evergreens.
When buying artificial trees, look for the "fire resistant" label.
When buying live trees, check for freshness. At home, cut 2 inches off the bottom of the trunk for better water absorption and keep the tree stand filled with water while indoors. Discard dry trees promptly.
Be careful when using artificial snow, angel hair and other decorations that could be harmful in any way, especially to children.
Use only UL-approved lights. Inspect holiday lights for frayed wire, bare spots, gaps in insulation or cracked sockets.
Do not overload outlets. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging into an outlet.
Safe Burning and Heating
Make sure wood stoves are properly installed away from combustible surfaces, have the correct floor support and adequate ventilation.
Use only dry, seasoned wood, and keep wood stacked away from structures.
Dispose of ashes regularly and properly.
Keep wood stove doors closed unless loading or stoking the fire.
Use a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace to prevent sparks from igniting carpets or furniture.
Before going to sleep, put out the fire in the fireplace, and do not close the damper with hot ashes in the fireplace. A closed damper forces carbon monoxide into the home.
Have chimneys cleaned and inspected annually.
Turn portable space heaters off when leaving the room.
Use only the manufacturer's recommended fuel for any kind of heater, and follow instructions for proper usage.
Space heaters need space. Keep them away from combustibles.
Do not overload the circuit when using an electric heater. Do not use electric heaters in rooms where they can come in contact with water.
Be sure furnace controls and emergency shutoffs are working properly.
Never thaw frozen pipes with any kind of open flame. Use hot water or a hand-held dryer.
When using any type of heating source, make sure the rooms are properly ventilated to prevent the buildup of carbon monoxide.
Install smoke alarms on every level of your house, check them regularly and change the batteries twice a year.
[Sources: U.S. Fire Administration and U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission]