Simple steps to keep your holiday season fire safe

Oak Bay Fire Department reminds residents to think safety when celebrating

The last thing anyone wants is to have the most festive of seasons to turn tragic, but each year, families are devastated by fires that often could have been avoided.

As a timely reminder, the Oak Bay Fire Department reminds residents to think safety when celebrating.

When setting up and decorating your Christmas tree, place the tree away from fireplaces, portable heaters, heater vents. and television sets. Place it out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways, advises Capt. Rob Kivell, Oak Bay Fire Prevention Division, adding that thin guy wires can help secure tall trees to walls or ceiling and will be almost invisible.

“Because heated rooms dry out natural trees rapidly, keep the stand filled with water and check the water level daily. A six-foot tree will absorb one gallon of water every two days,” Kivell says.

When decorating, use only lights tested for safety by a recognized testing organization, such as Underwriters’ Laboratories. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections and throw out damaged sets. Miniature lights are preferred, for their cool-burning bulbs. Position bulbs so they aren’t in direct contact with needles or ornaments.

Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord (maximum of 200 miniature lights or 150 larger lights), and remember, only one extension cord should be used per outlet, Kivell says.

It’s also important to take care with electrical cords. Don’t run cords under rugs as walking traffic can weaken insulation and the wires can overheat, increasing the chances for fire or electric shock. Be careful when placing cords behind or beneath furniture as pinched cords can fray and short. Keep animals away from cords to avoid entanglement and chewing and keep cords and lights away from the tree’s water supply.

Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.

Remember to turn off all lights before going to bed or leaving the house as the lights could short out and start a fire.

Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree and never use lighted candles on a tree – even an artificial tree – or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders and place candles where they will not be knocked down.

Decorative lighted villages, Nativity scenes, electric trains and other electrically powered scenery and figures should be monitored like other decorative lights.

For further information, contact the Oak Bay Fire Department’s fire prevention division at 250-592-9121.