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Be Fire Smart During the Holiday Season

We are coming up on three of the highest house fire risk days of the year --- Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's.   Here are some fire safety tips to keep your home and family safe.

The holiday season is often very busy with decorating, craft fairs, corporate events, shopping and more occupying our thoughts.  With all that on our minds, distracted cooking is the number one cause of household fires during the holiday season.  Generally, it's food left unattended on the stove that's the culprit. If you are momentarily distracted from the stove, do something to remind yourself to come back -- perhaps set the timer for 2-3 minutes.   Another idea is to take a spatula or other kitchen item with you.   Don't put the spatula down until you have returned your attention to your cooking. 
Santa putting out fire in south Surrey homeNewly constructed Surrey and White Rock homes no longer have wood burning fireplaces, but they are still around in older homes. We live in an old timer Surrey home with two wood burning fireplaces that we enjoy.  If you have a wood burning fireplace as well, I recommend having a chimney inspection before you start your cozy fire season.  Soot can turn to creosote over time and that's dangerous. Also, Santa likes his whites to stay white, so soot puts you on Santa's naughty list.  I want to be on the nice list because sometimes my jolly friend brings me Scotch.  
Also, do not use any liquid fire starter and burn wood only.  Have a good fireplace screen.   When your fire is done remove the ashes and embers in a metal bucket and store it outside, away from the home and flammable materials. After 24 hours it should have completely cooled, so ensure the metal garbage can is not warm.  You can  use the ashes to spread over your lawn.and/or garden.  Burned wood doesn’t contain nitrogen, but it does provide phosphorous, potassium, calcium, boron and other elements that growing plants need. It’s also very alkaline and useful for raising the pH in gardens.
December has four times more fires than any other month of the year.   Ahhh ... but candles really create a wonderful ambience for the holiday season.  Some basic safety precautions while using candles will minimize the risk significantly
- ensure candles are away from the path of children
- keep flames at least 35 centimetres away from anything flammable 
- ensure all candles are on a flat, non-flammable surface
- use hurricane glass around the flame
- never leave candles unattended and do a walkabout before bedtime to ensure all candles have been blown out
If these suggestions put a damper on a higher risk candle location you previously had in mind, flameless candles are an alternative.  
Christmas Trees
I'm actually feeling like the Grinch right now but I have to ask a question.  Do you know how long it takes a dry Christmas tree that ignites to engulf the tree and the room it's in into flames?  I just asked my wife what she thought ... her answer was 2-3 minutes.  That's a good guess but no, the answer is 30 seconds.
If you are using an artificial tree then the risk is very low.  I recommend that before you buy your tree that you ensure the tree is flame retardant.  Even still, keep your artificial tree away from the fireplace and any other heat sources.  
Fresh Christmas trees and the smell of fresh pine wafting through your home are a real treat during the holiday season.  If you chose a fresh tree, I have some safety tips:
- keep the base in water and top up the water every day
- keep the tree away the heat sources such as space heaters, fireplaces, radiators, heating vents 
- do not keep the tree more than three weeks
Enjoy your tree and remember that if you keep it well watered, it is very difficult to ignite.  Take the tree down as soon as you can after the holidays and dispose of it.  For Surrey homes, the city will pick the old trees up if put it out with your yard waste.  Alternatively, you can take the tree to Surrey Transfer Station 9770-192 Street, Surrey, BC.   
My wife is a huge Christmas light fan.  Every year we drive by Surrey and White Rock homes with the best displays of holiday lights.  If you have a beautiful display of lights, we are the appreciative drive by looky loo's.
But, once again, some tips for safety.  Do not put more than three strings of lights together.   Also check to ensure the wires are not cracked or frayed.  If you are using extension cords, ensure they are in good condition.   Replace any damaged sockets.   
If you are hanging lights outside, the same cautions apply as above, but also do not use nails and/or staples to hang your lights as they can damage the cables.  We recommend using plastic clips, as they will protect the cables and your home.   Also take your lights down after the season, because rodents (particularly squirrels in the case of Surrey and White Rock homes) and weather will damage the cables.  
Also, as an added precaution check your outdoor receptacle to ensure the ground fault indicators have not tripped.  If they are tripping frequently this may be a sign that your lights need replacing. 
Enjoy your food, libations, fireplace, lights and candles and be safe this holiday season.  

Mike Alleyne
Homelife Benchmark Realty, Surrey

Friends to Lead, Friends in "Deed"


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