Ignorance about safety is not holiday bliss
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Candles, Christmas trees and lights and turkey all lend themselves to holiday cheer. But each can lead just as easily to a holiday tragedy.
Unattended candle flames and cookpots, dried-out Christmas tree branches are common causes of home fires that occur over the holidays, say area firefighting agencies.
While serving as a traditional holiday setting in many households, candles are nonetheless a source of fire that can get out of hand if not watched. The Yuma and Somerton fire departments offer these safety guidelines for candle use:
• Take care that the holders that support the candles are non-flammable and placed where they can't fall over or be knocked over.
• Keep candles away from Christmas trees, flammable decorations and gift wrap.
• Do not leave unattended candles burning.
Christmas trees can become fodder for flames if they have dried out and become brittle.
When purchasing a natural Christmas tree, make sure the needles are green, flexible and do not come off in your hand when you touch the branches, says Mike Erfert, spokesman for the Yuma Fire Department.
Erfert's counterpart at the Somerton/Cocopah Fire Department, Robby Rodriguez, suggests keeping the base of a newly purchased tree in water to keep the branches and leaves fresh.
Cooking-related causes account for many of the fires that occupy Yuma firefighters over the holidays, says Erfert, and many of those stem from the deep-frying turkeys in a pot of oil.
“If you do it,” he says, “take precautions — you need to be careful. It's gallons of gallons of very hot oil being heated with an open flame.”
Given that potentially dangerous mix, people who opt for frying over the oven to cook the holiday bird need to follow the directions that come with the deep fryer, says Erfert. He offers these additional warnings:
• Always deep-fry a turkey outdoors in a location far-removed from anything flammable.
• Keep small children and pets away from the fryer.
• Never leave the fryer unattended.
• Make sure the fryer can't tip over.
And, adds Erfert, make sure the turkey is completely defrosted and drained of water. Otherwise, a mix of water and oil can lead to fire or even literally explosive results, he said.
During frying, maintain an oil temperature of 350 degrees, frying the turkey three to four minutes per pound, said Rodriguez.
When the Christmas is past, take down all holiday lights strung on the outside of the house, adds Rodriguez.
“What we see a lot of is people who leave their Christmas lights up year around,” he said. “The summer heat we have can fray the cords.”
And when the homeowner turns on the lights during the next holiday season, the potential exists for a short, he said, or even a fire if the cord makes contact with a wood exterior
“Put your decorations away when the holidays are over.”
Apart from handling home fires over the holiday season, Somerton/Cocopah firefighters are more apt to be giving aid to victims of accidents on roads in the south Yuma County during that time of year.
One factor in the accidents is heavier traffic over the holidays on south county roads such as Somerton Avenue and County 14th and County 19th streets, as the season population climbs and as agriculture vehicles travel between the fields, he said.
Still, he said, holiday accidents on south county roads — as well as throughout the county — can be avoided or minimized if drivers refrain from cellphone use and pay attention to the road.
And, as always, law enforcements agencies around the county urge holiday revelers to use a designated driver when returning home from parties where alcohol has been served.