Oswego County Public Information Office, 46 East Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126

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Dec. 7, 2006

Prevent Fires by Taking Precautions During the Holidays

FOR MORE INFORMATION, Contact Fire Coordinator John Hinds, 591-9142

As the holidays approach, Oswego County Fire Coordinator John Hinds reminds residents to follow simple life-saving steps to ensure a safe and happy season.

“The holidays are a time to enjoy family and friends and reflect on those things that are most important to us,” he said. “There should be nothing more important than providing a safe and secure home for your family.”

Each year, the US Fire Administration says, fires injure 2,600 individuals and cause more than $930 million in damage during the holiday season.

To avoid fires, Hinds offered these tips from the USFA and the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control:

Christmas trees

  • Special precautions are necessary when keeping a live tree in the house. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases. Needles should be green and hard to pull back from the branches. The needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out and is a fire hazard. Do not put the tree up too early or leave it up too long. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly.

  • When purchasing an artificial tree, look for one labeled “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean the tree won't catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.

  • Do not place the tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks.

Holiday lights

  • Inspect lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.

  • Never overload electrical outlets. Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate that it is safe. Connect the strings to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Periodically check the wires - they should not be warm to the touch.

  • Never leave holiday lights on unattended. Unplug them before going to sleep or leaving home.


  • All holiday decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.

  • Never put wrapping paper in the fireplace. It can throw off dangerous sparks and produce intense flames that can cause a chimney fire.

  • If you use candles to decorate a room, make sure they are in stable holders. Place them where they cannot be easily knocked over. Never leave a burning candle unattended. Never put lit candles on or near a tree.


  • Keep your family and overnight guests safe with a working smoke alarm on every level of your home, in every bedroom, and in the halls adjacent to the bedrooms.

  • Test smoke alarms monthly and replace batteries at least twice a year.

  • Instruct overnight guests on your fire escape plan and designated meeting place.

For more information, call the Fire Coordinator's Office at 591-9142.

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