Officials remind residents to exercise fire safety this holiday season

Officials are encouraging area residents to exercise caution and practice fire safety tips to ensure a safe holiday season. Among these tips are watering Christmas trees, keeping candles a safe distance from flammable objects and checking for frayed wires before hanging string lights. (Courtesy photo)

BIG RAPIDS — The holiday season is a time for gathering with family and friends, but as people are filling their homes with Christmas trees, lights and twinkling ornaments, there are a few important safety tips to keep in mind.

Beth Clawson, Michigan State University Extension community food systems educator, said one of the primary things for people to keep in mind is watering their Christmas trees.

“It’s crucial people keep it from drying out and becoming a tinderbox essentially,” she said.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), Christmas tree fires are not common, but when they do occur, they can be dangerous, with one of every 45 reported home Christmas tree fires resulting in death.

In addition to ensuring trees are watered to reduce the chance of a fire, officials also caution people to check over their strands of lights before hanging them in the house.

Clawson said string lights can be damaged during storage between the holiday season each year.

“If you’re pulling out lights from last year, you’re going to want to check them over,” she said.

Big Rapids Department of Public Safety Deputy Director Steve Schroeder said people should check to see if any bulbs are broken or if any wires are frayed before hanging lights.

He added it is important people follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the number of light strands to connect.

Another potentially dangerous item to have around the home during the holidays is candles.

The NFPA reports the top three days for home candle fires are Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

In order to prevent a fire from starting, the association suggests keeping candles at least 12 inches away from anything that burns.

They add it also is important to keep heat sources, such as fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, candles and heat vents at least three feet away from Christmas trees.

While fire safety is vital during the holiday season, it continues to be important as people put away and dispose of their decorations.

Schroeder said one way for people to properly dispose of their Christmas trees is by burning them according to the fire code for their residential area.

Clawson added some cities may offer options such as a tree pick-up service, and suggests people check with their community for the specifics.

Although there are many potential hazards during this time of year, officials say using common sense can limit many of them.

“Be responsible and have a good holiday,” Schroeder said.

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