Some winter tips for being fire aware

A Christmas tree is a post-holiday fire hazard that should be run through a chipper.

Assistant fire chief Mark Smitton recommends keeping a fire extinguisher on each floor of your home.

Assistant fire chief Mark Smitton recommends keeping a fire extinguisher on each floor of your home.

So that beautiful cut Christmas tree you so lovingly decorated has served its purpose as a source of delight for your family, and as a topper for all those presents.

Now, though, we’re past the holidays, and that significant fire hazard should have already been run through a chipper.

That’s the word from Mark Smitton, assistant fire chief – fire prevention and communications for the Maple Ridge Fire Department.

He  says the cause of fire prevention is best served when homeowners dispose of their cut trees as soon as possible after Christmas.

Simply dumping it outside the back door for later disposal because it’s convenient is not only an eyesore, but also a potential fuel source for fire.

Speaking of fire, candles are a major contributor to residential fires at this time of the year and through the winter because people tend to use them more often than at other times of the year to create ambiance, or as a source of light during blackouts.

“Never leave candles unattended, whether they’re for decoration or light,” says Smitton.

“And never put them near anything flammable, especially easily combustible materials like curtains.”

The same goes for space heaters, he adds, which are another serious fire hazard if used improperly.

Make sure you plug them directly into a wall outlet and not into extension cords or power bars. They draw way too much current, and might cause the cords or bars to overheat and create a fire.

Fireplaces aren’t the same hazard they once were, primarily because many now use natural gas, but chimney fires do still occur. In fact, says Smitton, the fire department was recently called out to a residential chimney fire.

If you’re using your wood-burning fireplace regularly, get it inspected and cleaned.

Ditto for your furnace and any other gas appliances you might have in your home.

They should all be serviced and cleaned annually to provide efficient, safe operation.

“These types of calls [chimney, candle, space heater fires] definitely go up this time of year,” the assistant fire chief confirms. “It’s colder and stormier outside, so people use whatever they have for heat and light. We just ask that they do it safely.”

Two pieces of safety equipment that will help are a fire extinguisher and a carbon monoxide detector.

If your home has neither, you’re flirting with disaster.

Carbon monoxide detectors are part of the building code today, and with so many gas appliances in use, they’re really a good idea, says Smitton.

As far as the fire extinguishers go, having one on each floor of your home is a recommended precaution.

Once you have them, however, you need to keep them charged and in good working order, so if you haven’t looked at them for a while, now’s a good time to do so.

Smitton cautions that fire prevention is all about cutting down on potential hazards, and being smart when it comes to safety.

On behalf of the Maple Ridge Fire Department, he wants to wish everyone a safe and happy winter.

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