The Saanich Fire Department is calling for residents to be fire smart as they deck the halls for the holidays. (Black Press Media file photo)

The Saanich Fire Department is calling for residents to be fire smart as they deck the halls for the holidays. (Black Press Media file photo)

Vancouver Island firefighters offer safety tips to avoid holiday fires

Candles, damaged lights, dry trees and smoking can all lead to house fires

Vancouver Island firefighters are reminding those celebrating the festive season to “put a freeze on winter holiday fires” by keeping heat and flames away from Christmas trees, checking string lights for damage and practising fire smart habits.

With Christmas fast approaching, Capt. Carl Trepels with the Saanich Fire Department is asking residents to be cautious with their holiday decorations to prevent fires. While decking the halls can be fun, lights, candles and battery-operated decorations can increase the risk of a home fire so it’s important to be fire smart, he explained.

“We want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable holiday season, especially with the year we have had,” Trepels said.

He noted that candles cause most house fires over the holiday season so firefighters recommend opting for battery-operated, no flame candles whenever possible. If flame candles are the only option, place them at least 12 inches away from anything flammable.

Christmas light and extension cords should also be checked for fraying or damage to avoid fires. Trepels added that it’s important to check the manufacturer’s instructions regarding how many strings of lights can be connected safely.

Christmas trees also need to be monitored closely, he said, adding that they should be watered every day and disposed of at various community recycling programs after the holidays or when they get dry. He noted that Christmas tree lights should be turned off every night before bed.

“Electrical failures or malfunctions account for about one of every three Christmas tree fires,” Trepels said. Trees should be kept at least three feet away from fireplaces and space heaters and should never be placed in front of an exit.

Smoking is another leading cause of holiday fires and can result in fatalities, he said, adding that smoking should be done outside and all burning materials should be extinguished in large ashtrays with water.

Trepels pointed out that holiday treats should not be left on the stove unattended – especially when high heat and oil is being used. If something in a pot catches fire, use a tight-fitting lid to carefully smother the flames, turn off the stove and call 911, he said.

“Keep a fire extinguisher in your house, know how to use it, watch what you eat and watch what you heat,” Trepels explained.

He added that as residents get their homes ready for the holidays, they should also take time to ensure all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms are working and have fresh batteries. There should be an alarm on every level of the home where people sleep, he said.

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