By CHRIS AGEE
While an ongoing drought has created an increased risk for outdoor fires locally, winter is considered the most dangerous season for residential fires.
Mineral Wells Fire Marshal Joel Thompson said two factors – heating and holiday decorations – contribute to the increased risk.
“I’d like to remind everybody if they do have a live tree that they keep it watered daily, keep it as fresh as they can,” he said.
Additionally, he urged residents to use caution when removing decorations.
“Do not dispose of your tree in your fireplace,” he said, noting other highly flammable products such as gift wrap should never be put in a fireplace.
Heating, specifically with portable heaters, poses its own unique fire danger, he added.
“Keep space heaters away from presents or trees,” he said.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission released a fire safety guide specifically for the winter season.
Adding to Thompson’s suggestions, the CPSC explained freshness is key when choosing a live Christmas tree. Buyers should look for a green tree with needles that do not break when bent between fingers.
The tree should not lose needles when tapped on the ground and the bottom of the tree should be sticky from resin, the guide states.
The CPSC also recommends anyone purchasing an artificial tree look for one labeled fire resistant.
Similarly, decorators should use only lights that have been tested by a nationally-recognized laboratory and each set of lights should be checked for broken sockets, frayed wires or loose connections.
Any extention cords used inside must be rated for the intended use, the guide continues, and lights used outside should be certified for such use.
Finally, with increased candle use during the holiday season, the CPSC recommends keeping any burning candles in sight, extinguishing them before going to bed or leaving the vicinity. Additionally, residents should only place lit candles on a stable surface, away from any items that can potentially ignite and in a place pets and children cannot reach them.
Additional consumer safety tips can be found online at cpsc.gov.