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Precautions can help ensure safe holidays

Posted: November 18, 2012 - 1:01am

It’s true that there’s no place like home for the holidays. With the temperature dropping, there’s nothing like bundling up with the family around the fire to enjoy some holiday cheer. However, the open hearths, candles and holiday cooking also bring an increased risk for house fires.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, an estimated 2,000 Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings occur annually in the United States, resulting in an estimated average of five deaths, 25 injuries and $21 million in property damage. The leading cause of these fires is cooking.

Here are five cooking safety tips to help you avoid a holiday disaster:

• Make sure you have smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside each sleeping area, and in every bedroom. Test smoke alarms monthly and replace them if they are 10 years old or older.

• Never leave cooking food unattended, and keep a lid nearby to smother small fires in pans such as grease fires. Be particularly careful with oil-based turkey fryers, which present numerous burn and fire hazards.

• Don’t wear loose sleeves while working over hot stove burners – they can melt, ignite or catch on the handles of pots and pans, spilling hot oil and other liquids.

• Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot foods and drinks are prepared or carried.

• Plug cooking appliances directly into an electrical outlet. Never use an extension cord for a cooking appliance. It can overload the circuit and cause a fire.

Other holiday safety tips:

• When choosing a live Christmas tree, pick one with green needles that don’t fall off when you bounce the tree trunk on the ground. Keep it away from heat sources in your home, and water it frequently.

• Check your holiday lights for frayed wires and other damage. Never link more than three light strands together.

• Make sure your holiday decorations are non-flammable.

• Consider using battery-operated flameless candles instead of real candles.

• Don’t burn wrapping paper in the fireplace; it could create a large blaze that could spark a chimney fire. Also, never leave a fireplace burning when you go to sleep.

Also, remember to protect your plumbing and the environment by recycling your cooking oil if you’re frying your Thanksgiving turkey this year. The Columbia County Water Utility and the City of Augusta Utilities Department are again holding cooking oil recycling events, where residents can bring used cooking oil for proper disposal.

Collections will be held 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 30 and 8 a.m. to noon Dec. 1 at the Columbia County Water Utility, 4325 Evans-to-Locks Road, Evans.

For information, call Scott Daniel at (706) 863-6928, or email sdaniel@columbiacountyga.gov.

(Pam Tucker is director of the Columbia County Emergency and Operations Division.)

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