Firefighters: Keep Home Fire-Safe During the Holidays
Cooking Thanksgiving dinner and having menorah candles or Christmas trees in a home can all be fire hazards if residents are not careful. Fire professionals share insights on how to keep homes free of fire during this celebratory time of year.
During the 25 years that he has been a fire professional, Lt. Scott Goldstein of the Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company has seen his fair share of home fires during the holiday season.
There have been unanticipated hazards that have caused significant damage, such as unattended menorah candles that fell out of their holders and caused fires, grease fires while families prepared a Thanksgiving dinner; dried out, fallen Christmas tree pine needles that ignited after being overheated, and long hair that caught fire when a person got too close to an open flame while cooking.
"The biggest holiday concern in Pikesville, when it comes to fires in the home, are the open flames from candles," Goldstein said.
He offered some sound advice to prevent holiday candles from causing fires in the home.
"Do not leave the candles unattended," Goldstein said. "Also, do not place them near other combustibles, such as underneath an overhead kitchen cabinet. If the flame touches the cabinet, it will cause a fire. We have had a lot of issues with that."
Elise Armacost, spokesman for the Baltimore County Fire Department, and Baltimore County Career Fire Department, Pikesville, Station 2, also said that candles represent a major potential fire hazard during the holiday season.
"You want to make sure the candle is in a stable container," Armacost said. "Make sure you blow out the candles in your home before you go to sleep as well. Leaving a candle burning when you go to sleep is a recipe for disaster."
For many people, the holiday season often means extra time spent cooking in the kitchen.
During Hanukah, which begins soon — the evening of Dec. 1 — potato latkes are a popular dish to cook. They can present a fire hazard if you are not careful when preparing them, Goldstein said. Latkes are prepared in oil, which is flammable.
"If you cook with grease, there is always the potential for a grease fire. If there is a grease fire, simply turn off the stove and put a lid over the pot that you are cooking with where the fire ignited."
The worst thing you can do is throw water on the flame, a common reaction to a fire, he said. "That could splatter the grease, get it all over the countertops and cabinets, and ignite the entire kitchen."
When cooking, you should never leave the food unattended.
"When we see cooking fires, it is often because someone left a pan with hot grease on the stove and the grease ignited," Armacost said. "Also, be careful of what you wear when you cook. Cooking in a robe or a shirt with long floating sleeves can be especially dangerous if you are using a gas stove."
Light: The way
Christmas tree lights are another common fire hazard during the holiday season.
"Do not overload sockets," Armacost said. "If you're stringing Christmas lights, don't try to plug more than one cord into the adaptor."
Armacost and Goldstein both said that using common sense is the real key to preventing fires in your home, not just during the holiday season, but throughout the entire year.
Remember to make sure you have working smoke alarms, as well. "That is the number one message the [Baltimore County] fire department offers when it comes to home fire safety," said Armacost.
The Pikesville-based website, www.jewishfireprevention.org, offers a plethora of advice when it comes to menorah safety, such as "do not light 'school project' menorahs made from materials that can burn."
To learn more about preventing fires in the home during the holiday season, visit www.baltimorecountymd.gov/fire, www.nfpa.org, and www.pvfd32.org.