From: Jim Multhaup, Assistant Chief, Fire Prevention
Winter holidays typically involve more cooking, extra lighting, combustible decorations, wood burners and parties, all of which pose a special risk for fire. Know in advance what to do if a fire does break out and do everything you can to prevent one from starting in the first place. Although the careless use of smoking materials continues to be the leading cause of fire deaths in Minnesota, cooking is by far the leading cause of structure fires in general.
With prevention being essential to reducing losses from fire, the Winona Fire Department offers the following tips.
Keep appliances clean and free from grease and crumbs.
Keep curtains, clothing and other combustibles away from the stove.
Never leave food unattended on the stove and make sure the stove is off before leaving the home or going to bed.
Avoid using lit candles and consider using battery operated flameless candles which can look like and simulate real candles.
Inspect decorative lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, broken sockets and excessive kinking.
Avoid overloading by not linking more than three light strands together unless directions state it is safe.
When choosing a real tree, pull on the needles and bounce the tree on the ground. If needles fall off easily, it has probably dried out and is a fire hazard.
Keep live tree stand filled with water at all times.
Be sure to keep all combustible decorations a safe distance from heat sources and ensure that trees and other decorations do not block an exit way.
Have the chimney inspected annually and cleaned if necessary
Always use a metal screen with fireplaces and be sure to clear the area of combustible materials or debris.
Burn only well seasoned, dry firewood to prevent dangerous accumulations of creosote.
Encourage non-smoking or provide guests with large, deep ashtrays and dispose of ashes in a safe manner.
After the party, check upholstered furniture and check waste baskets for cigarette butts that may be smoldering from improper disposal.
Be aware of the special hazards associated with holidays and remember that prevention is hard to measure but it does work. Above all, install and inspect your smoke detectors by testing them regularly. Because they are critical to life and safety, the Winona Fire Department can provide and install smoke detectors or replacement batteries at no charge to anyone in need of assistance. Please call 457-8266 to arrange an appointment.