12/10/2012 1:32:00 PM Holidays can bring presents, stockings and fire
By David Richards
A nice holiday season, complete with a tree, stockings and a turkey in the oven, can be ruined in moments by a variety of fires known to start this time of year.
Portable heaters, Christmas trees and careless disposal of ash can start devastating blazes during the wintertime.
"Several years ago, I was sitting in church and my pager went off," said Byron fire chief Jeff Thorpe. "There was fire damage all throughout a house in Kalmar township. We were there into the early hours of Christmas morning."
For portable heaters, Thorpe said to make sure there is nothing around them and that pets aren't able to knock them over. In addition, residents should turn them off when they go to bed and shouldn't leave them unattended.
Proper care of the chimney is important as well, along with working smoking alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
"Make sure to have your chimney inspected and make sure it is in working order," Thorpe said.
Ash can also be the cause of fires if not disposed of properly.
The chief said ash should be kept in a metal bucket and placed outside.
"If people anticipate they are having problems, call 911," he said. "Sometimes people end up trying to take care of things on their own and the longer they wait, the bigger the fire can build."
For Christmas trees, Thorpe said to be sure to water them daily and to get as fresh of a tree as possible. Also, he encouraged homeowners to buy smaller, energy efficient lights because they don't build as much heat.
In addition, when snow falls, residents should remove any snow that blocks a fire hydrant to make access as quick and easy as possible.
"If we end up getting a fire call and there's snow on it, it takes extra time," Thorpe said.
Thorpe has been on the volunteer fire department in Byron for the past 22 years.
The Minnesota Safety Council offers these tips for fire safety during the winter season:
Always keep a screen in front of the fireplace to prevent flying sparks from escaping. Never store flammable materials near any heating sources, especially fireplaces or woodstoves.
Avoid huge, blazing fires; never leave a fire unattended.
Burn paper only when starting a fire and only in small amounts. Never use chemicals or fuels to start a fire. Be aware that holiday gift wrap may contain chemicals that release toxic fumes when burned.
Use only dry, seasoned wood or logs. Avoid evergreen branches, which can flare up quickly and throw sparks, or treated wood, which can contain harmful chemicals.
Keep small children away from any heating source, especially open fires.