Fire agency and insurance company officials urge safety precautions to prevent fires during the holidays and winter months.
State Farm Insurance reports that one-third of home fires and home fire deaths occur during December, January and February. California ranked fourth nationally in the number of Christmas Day fire and smoke-related claims for 2005-09.
To avoid fires:
• Pay attention to the stove. Cooking is one of the top causes of home holiday fires, usually from unattended cooking.
• Keep flammable materials at least 3 feet from space heaters, wood-burning stoves and other heating devices. Heating equipment ranks second as a cause of household fires.
• Make sure candles are in stable holders and placed where they can't be easily toppled. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials suggest using battery-operated candles instead of traditional candles, noting that they are safer, last longer and don't spill melted wax on the furniture.
• Inspect holiday lights for frayed wires, bare spots or broken sockets, and remember to turn them off before leaving home or going to bed.
• Don't overload electrical outlets for holiday lights.
• When keeping a live Christmas tree indoors, make sure the needles are fresh and green, and that the tree has plenty of water.
• Never burn trash or paper in a fireplace. Burning paper can float up the chimney onto the roof, or a neighbor's roof, causing a fire. Remove ashes from the fireplace in a metal container and allow them to cool outdoors for at least 24 hours before disposing of them.
For more information on fire safety, see the Cal Fire website at www.fire.ca.gov.
- Cathy Locke