Winter is here. The colder months, especially the holiday seasons, represent uniquely different ways people need to approach fire safety.
Data from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) shows the December and January months are typically the highest months for residential fires.
DPS also suggests that the annual number of fires is declining as a whole.
Jeff Bommersbach, Redwood Falls fire chief,  confirms that this has also been true for Redwood Falls – knock on wood. The local fire department is a 30-member staff crewed by individuals who are on call 24/seven and drills 75 percent of all weeks.
“We are really all about helping the community…and you never know when we might be needed,” Bommersbach said. “We all find it pretty easy to get caught up in the holidays and don’t often pause to think about things like fire safety. This time of year, there are a great many things that happen more frequently than other times of the year – or only happen around Christmas…we burn more candles this time of year than any other and use strings of lights, heaters and decorations which can become fire hazards.”
Bommersbach has been on the fire department for 15 years and seen a lot of things.
He suggests some basic safety advice as we enter the holidays:
• Check smoke detectors and CO detectors – it is perhaps the most important part of any recommendations and is the most commonly overlooked.
• Make sure the lights are in good condition – that your wiring is not compromised, that all the bulbs are seated properly, etc.
• Do not leave lights unattended overnight.
• Be careful with candles and candle placement – location is important with open flames.
• Be aware of placement regarding where you have hung seasonal decorations.
• Keep trees well-watered and remember that even artificial trees are flammable and vulnerable to becoming an unexpected tinderbox.
• Don’t overload circuits and keep power splitters to a minimum.
• Be cautious with space heaters and any other source of supplemental heat; don’t set anything on or directly near them.
• Location, location, location – Placement is always the key; never leave electrical decorations or heat sources unattended.
Common sense is key and always use your best judgment.
The DPS has also released a PSA flyer regarding Christmas safety which points out several interesting facts. One in every three Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems, and tree fires increase the fatality rate in residential fires.
Fraying wires, bare wires, or worn wiring for tree lights indicates that string should be disposed of. Tree stands should hold enough water for two days (about a gallon and a half) and shed needles should be removed often – make sure you cut an inch or more from the base before erecting a tree, so that it can drink properly or else it may dry out and drop its needles necessitating removal. Use nonflammable decorations only.
Keep trees and decorations away from heat vents or registers and never block an exit with a Christmas tree.
The Redwood Falls Fire Department wanted to take the opportunity to wish the community a safe and happy holiday season.