Two local fire chiefs are warning festive families that Christmas and New Year’s are prime time for house fires.
New Glasgow Chief Doug Dort, whose department handled 15 or 16 callouts to date, had this advice for people in Pictou County.
“Have a fire extinguisher handy in the house and have a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector in the home,” said Dort.
Fire hazards include dirty or cluttered wood stoves and chimneys, candles, Christmas lights and other decorations and unattended cooking. Chimneys and wood stoves must be regularly cleaned and inspected.
Dort’s counterpart Kenny Dunn from Westville said that extensions cords are another potential hazard and should not be overloaded.
However, despite a car fire on Friday night, his department has enjoyed a relatively quiet Christmas season.
Nonetheless, he warned people to “make sure you have a clean chimney.”
The Canadian Red Cross says that house fires are most likely to occur between December and March.
It recommends that people learn about the most common causes of house fires, make a fire escape plan and keep a disaster preparedness kit including food, water, first aid supplies and other items that are listed on its website.
A fire plan should include a home floor plan with all possible emergency exits, a place outside for the family to meet and who will assist family members needing extra help, such as elderly or disabled relatives and small children.
The Red Cross also warns people to keep flammable items at least three feet away from any source of heat, never smoke in bed, keep things such as clothing that can catch fire away from the stove, talk to children about the risks and keep items like lighters out of reach.
Christmas trees can easily become dry inside a home and must be watered regularly and decorated only with safety-approved lights.
It is also a good idea for people to learn the ‘Stop, Drop and Roll’ fire drill in case clothing catches alight.
People should install both smoke and carbon monoxide alarms at all levels of their homes, test them every month and replace the batteries over the March and November clock changes. Children should be shown the alarms and told what to do if they sound.
If a fire breaks out people should get out immediately and stay out, call for help from neighbours, use an alternate exit if doors or their handles are warm and crawl under low smoke.
If smoke, heat or flames block exits, people should stay in the room with the doors closed. Place a wet towel under the door and call 911. Open a window and wave a brightly coloured cloth or use a flashlight to signal for help.