Keep Homes Fire-free For The Holidays

Sarah Pacheco
Wednesday - December 19, 2007
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The Honolulu Fire Department has been busy responding to house fires after the stormy weather earlier this month. Some fires that caused thousands of dollars in damages, however, were not due to lightning or stray electrical wires.

In an issued statement, fire Capt. Terry Seelig confirmed that at least two West Oahu homes were set ablaze by candles lit during power outages.

“Candles can be a fire hazard because they are an open flame,” he explained.“They are a source of ignition for the combustible materials in your home. The key is to pay attention to candles when they are burning. To reduce a candle’s fire hazard, people should be careful where they use them and never leave them unattended.”

To protect yourself, your family and home, Seelig gives the follow safety tips:

* A well-maintained smoke alarm is the single most important means of preventing house and apartment fatalities by providing an early warning to alert homeowners of possible danger. Make sure smoke alarms are properly installed on every level of the home. For extra safety, install smoke alarms both inside and outside sleeping areas.

* Use flashlights rather than candles during power outages. According to the National Fire Protection Association, four out of 10 home-candle fires start in the bedroom, and two out of 10 in living and family rooms or dens. The most commonly lit objects are mattresses or bedding.

* If you do decide to use candles, be sure they are placed in sturdy, inflammable holders that firmly hold the candle in place. The holder also should be large enough to collect dripping wax, which can spill and quickly ignite.

* Keep wicks trimmed to one-fourth inch and extinguish candles once they burn to within two inches of their holders (Votive and container candles should be extinguished before the last half-inch of wax melts).

* Always use extreme caution around a lit candle. Children or pets can accidentally knock one over, starting a fire once the flame comes into contact with carpet, curtains or furniture. Hold candles away from nearby combustible materials, including clothing.

Other common causes for fires this time of year include faulty Christmas lights and dried-out trees. Seelig said to inspect all lights before use, making sure they have been approved by a laboratory and are properly designed for your intended use. Also check for cracks in the wire, broken bulbs and loose sockets.

“Be careful when installing lights,” Seelig advised. “Don’t overload circuits by plugging numerous strings into the same socket. Don’t string lights when they are plugged in - you might get shocked!”

Before going to bed or leaving the house, make sure to turn off all lights, especially those on the traditional Christmas centerpiece: the tree. Pines are easily ignited and can become a fired hazard. Put your tree in an area out of the sun, keep the stand filled with water at all times, and dispose of the tree properly once the holidays are over.

For more information on preventing fires and ensuring a safe holiday season, visit

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