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Cold weather, holiday season prompts home safety alert

By Staff
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
The onset of cold weather coupled with high home heating costs and the approaching holiday season has prompted Hartselle Fire Department to warn residents of the increased danger of house fires.
"We had two house fires recently and both were related to home heating," said Fire Chief Steve Shelton. "Fortunately, no one was hurt and damage was negligible, but the bottom line is both were preventable.
"One of the big concerns we have now is the increased cost of traditional home heating fuels and the effect that may have on leading people to turn to less expensive alternatives," Shelton stated. "If we have a cold winter, it's likely there will be more wood-burning heaters and fireplaces in use.
"That being the case, certain steps should be taken to make sure they are safe," he noted. Chimneys and stove flues should be checked annually by a certified chimney sweep for creosote and soot buildup and cleaned, if needed. Flammable liquids should not be used to start fires and screens should be used to prevent sparks from falling on combustible floor surfaces. If space heaters are used, follow manufacturer's instructions and never refuel a kerosene heater while it is burning."
Other home fire dangers stem from the increased activity that occurs in the home during the holidays.
"Most families do more cooking now than at any other time of the year," Shelton said. "This elevates the risk of a fire occurring in the kitchen. Never leave the stove unattended when an eye is on. To play it safe, make sure an ABC type fire extinguisher is within easy reach."
Holiday decorations not properly inspected and cared for represent another fire danger in the home, according to Shelton.
"If you use a live Christmas tree, choose one that is freshly cut and keep water under the cut end to help prevent it from drying out. Place it so that it's not close to a fireplace or head vent.
"Inspect strands of decorative lights carefully and discard any that have frayed wiring or loose sockets, Use only those listed by an approved testing laboratory. Make sure they are not overloading electrical circuits and turn them off when unattended.
If you use scented candles, keep them away from combustibles and make sure they are blown out before leaving the house," he said.
Another suggestion he made was to change batteries in smoke alarms twice a year.
"We always need to be aware of the potential fire hazards in and around the home and on high alert at this time. A good safety slogan to keep in mind is 'If in doubt, do without.'"
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