Fire safety tips for the holidays

The Shelton Fire Prevention Bureau would like to remind everyone that it is important to make fire prevention a top priority when decorating and celebrating this holiday season. Fires involving holiday trees, lights, candles and cooking pose a serious threat during this time of year. Decorating homes and businesses is a long-standing tradition around the holiday season. These same decorations may increase the chances of fire that can cause extensive damage to property, in addition to possible injury or death.

Following a few fire safety tips can keep electric lights, candles and a Christmas tree from creating a tragedy. Ted Pisciotta, assistant chief of fire prevention, said that everyone can help ensure a safe and happy holiday by considering hazards associated with holiday trees, decorative lighting, candles, and cooking.

• If you plan on a “live/cut” tree, be sure it is remains fresh and is never dry. Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull from the branches, and a needle should bend, not break, if the tree has been freshly cut. Bouncing the tree trunk on the ground can identify old trees. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard. Do not put the tree within three feet of a fireplace, space heater, radiator, or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame, or sparks. Do not leave a tree up for longer than two weeks and be sure to keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

• Holiday lights can be a potential ignition source. Only use lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory. Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Make sure to periodically check the wires — they should not be warm to the touch. Never leave a lighted Christmas tree or other decorative lighting display unattended. Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections and broken sockets. Do not overload extension cords or outlets and do not run an electrical cord under a rug.

• Avoid using lit candles. If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where children, pets or cords from vacuum cleaners etc. cannot easily knock them over. Consider where combustible items might be placed and where candles could be knocked over and where they could be forgotten about over time. Never leave the house or go to sleep with candles burning. Of course, battery-powered, flameless “candles” are always preferred are becoming more available in retail stores, and on the web.

• Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking. Many fires that start small occur when food is left on the stove or the oven unattended. Always keep an oven mitt and lid nearby when you’re cooking. If a small grease fire starts in a pan, put on an oven mitt and smother the flames by carefully sliding the lid over the pan. Turn off the burner. Don’t remove the lid until it is completely cool, and never, ever try to move the pan anywhere. If there is an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. For any fire situation call 911 immediately.

• Remember, at any place of business or at home, make sure all exits are accessible and not blocked by decorations or trees.

• Finally, as in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Know when and how to call 911 for help. And remember to practice your home escape plan.

For more information, the public is encouraged to contact the Shelton Fire Prevention Bureau at 203-924-1555 or on the web under “Public Safety” at