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Alarm Box: Tips for a safe winter

When fall rains set in, firefighters often hear comments like, “You must be thankful the rains are here. This must be your slow season.”

It may be a surprise, but we don’t have a slow season in Ashland. Your firefighters and paramedics will respond to nearly 5,000 calls for help this year. While the rain limits the number of wildfires, the threat of indoor fires increases. This is the time of year we turn on heaters, stoke fires and get creative in the kitchen.

Here’s a list of a few things you can do to make sure you, your friends and family keep your home or apartment as safe as possible:

Smoke Alarms: Place smoke alarms in each bedroom, in the hall leading to the bedrooms and on each floor of your home. Make sure your smoke alarms are working by testing them monthly. Never disable a smoke detector except to change the batter or replace the alarm itself.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms: If you have a carbon monoxide source such as natural gas appliances, oil- or wood-burning stoves, or a door that leads from the garage to your house, you should have a carbon monoxide alarm near the bedrooms. This gas is odorless and potentially deadly. Detectors are the only way to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Cooking: Cooking mishaps are the number one cause of house fires. This is the time of year we see an upswing in these types of fire calls. Unattended cooking is the biggest culprit, followed by food frying. Remember, oil will catch fire if it gets too hot. Keep a lid nearby in case of an oil fire, and never put water on hot oil!

Portable Space Heaters: Keep these at least three feet from combustibles like clothes, towels, newspapers and boxes. These are meant to be used as temporary heating sources for small spaces. Don’t leave them on all the time or when you leave the house, and don’t try to heat the whole house with them. If your heat source fails, never use an outdoor fueled appliance like a propane heater as an indoor heat source. Carbon monoxide can kill.

Candles: Let’s just say that battery-operated candles are much safer. There are some very realistic-looking battery-powered candles on the market today, and they pose no open flame threat. If you can’t part with the wax candle and flame, then ensure it is not near combustibles (paper, fabric, curtains, books, wood), and do not leave the room or go to sleep while the candle is burning. We have seen many candles start fires. If you have left the house or a room with a candle burning, maybe it’s time to make the switch to battery-operated candles.

Christmas and Holiday Trees: If you select a live tree, make a new cut about 1 to 2 inches from the base of the trunk. This will let the tree soak up water. Keep water in the stand. When you change the water for your pet(s), add water to the tree. Keep heat sources at least three feet from the tree. Use lights that are in good repair with no broken or damaged wires. If the tree starts dropping needles, it’s time to get rid of it.

Check our website at www.ashland.or.us/holiday for other helpful holiday tips.

Let’s have a safe and happy holiday season.

Kelly Burns is a battalion chief/paramedic with Ashland Fire & Rescue.