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Fire officials offer tips to avoid mishaps, tragedies over the holidays

Cooking and smoking are two of the biggest triggers
Christmas tree fire

WATERLOO — With many of us planning or attending big parties and get-togethers for the holidays, there's the risk things could go wrong abruptly.

That doesn't just apply to heated political arguments over the dinner table, there's also fire hazards. 

John Percy is Public Education Officer with Waterloo Fire Rescue. He said their organization has a special Christmas wish. 

"It is to make sure that we have a fire-free holiday season this year. But we need everyone's help to do this. What we do find is during the holiday season, some of the leading causes of fires in the home are cooking and smoking. Those are actually the top two causes of fatal fires during November, December and January."

Percy said in terms of cooking, because of all the guests you'll all be having over, it's easy to get distracted.

"Regardless of what you celebrate this holiday season, you're probably going to have people over or there will be more cooking that is occurring. So if you are cooking, stay in the kitchen at all times. If you do need to leave the room .. turn off the stove or take off the pot and put it on a different element."

Percy said cooking while under the influence of alcohol or drugs can also be dangerous. 

"That combination with cooking can slow down your reaction time. If you do allow smoking inside of your home, provide deep ash trays for your guests. And once they leave, check in the couches, cushions, and behind furniture for any cigarette butts."

Percy added regardless of the time of year, it is law in Ontario to have working smoke alarms on every level of your home.

"You need to have them outside of all of your sleeping areas, and working carbon monoxide alarms. There are more chances of having home fires over the holidays, so you want to have a fire escaple plan that identifies two ways out of the house."

While Christmas trees can be beautiful, they can also be hazardous. 

"Interestingly enough, we don't really see that here in the city. But across the province as a whole, there is a higher risk for tree fires. If you get a real tree, make sure you cut at least two inches off the trunk. You always want to make sure that you add water to the tree, every single day. Those trees should also be one metre away from any heat source. Don't ever put real candles on the tree itself."

If there is a Christmas tree fire, Percy said it will ignite quickly. 

"To the point that you may not have an opportunity to get out the front door, so that's why it's so important to have a second way out of your house."

Last year, there were no injuries or deaths due to holiday house fires in the City of Waterloo.

"Unfortunately in the province, we typically do see people get hurt or there is a fatality. Our goal in Waterloo is to ensure that everyone has a safe holiday season."

You can see more tips on how to stay safe and fire-free over the holidays by clicking here


Erin Anderson

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