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Safe, sound holiday season

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- The holiday season is a time to celebrate with family and friends, but unfortunately it is also the time of year when people face a much greater risk of home fires.

According to the National Fire Protection Association's website, nearly 600 house fires occur each year during the holiday season; making it the most dangerous time of year for fires. The 39th Civil Engineer Squadron's Fire and Emergency Services Flight offers the following holiday season fire safety awareness tips to help prevent a fire from occurring at home and to keep families safe:

Christmas trees: A dried-out evergreen tree have the potential to be an extremely dangerous fire hazard. When purchasing a live Christmas tree, ensure it is freshly cut. Beware of any tree with brittle or shedding needles. Stand the tree on a sturdy, non-trip tree stand away from heat sources, such as radiators, TV sets and fireplaces. Ensure the tree does not block room exits, so do not put it in front of your back door, because this is a means of fire escape. Make sure to check the tree's water level daily and discard the tree when the water absorption stops. When purchasing an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled as "fire-retardant." 

Holiday lighting: When decorating with lights, only purchase lights that have a testing laboratory label, such as UL, CE, or Turkish equivalent TSE. Lighting rated for indoors is not safe for outdoor use.  For outside decorations, use only those lights labeled for outdoor use. Use extension cords sparingly and do not daisy chain, connect multiple extension cords together, cords. Check all cords for frayed or damaged wiring and be sure to replace cords that show wear and tear. Do not overload your home's electrical outlets, and always unplug all lights before leaving home or going to sleep.

Candles: Exercise extreme caution when burning candles. Ensure they are kept well away from decorations and other combustible materials. Never leave children unattended in a room with lit candles, and always keep candles, as well as matches and lighters, out of their reach. Do not display lit candles in windows, as curtains are apt to ignite. This is especially true when windows are  left open, because the wind can blowcurtains into the candle flame. Never use candles to decorate Christmas trees.  

Holiday parties: Only decorate for holiday parties with flame-retardant or noncombustible materials. Provide guests who smoke with large, deep ashtrays and empty them frequently. After parties, check for discarded cigarette butts inside and under upholstery, couches, love seats, etc., and in trashcans; a hidden cigarette butt can smolder and begin burning hours later.

Kitchen fire safety: Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the United States as well as military family housing throughout the DoD. The rate of unattended cooking fires spikes during the holidays, so never leave the kitchen when something is cooking on the stove. Always turn pot handles in to avoid accidental spills. While cooking wear tight-fitting clothes, as loose clothes can readily be ignited by hot burners. Do not store items on the stovetop, as they can easily catch fire. Keep kitchen appliances clean and in good condition; make certain to turn them off when not cooking. People who experience a cooking fire should put a lid on it; if possible, turn the stove off; evacuate their homes, and call the fire department, 112, from a neighbor's home.

Home fires and injuries caused by fires are not on anyone's Christmas list. Common sense and a little imagination can make for a holiday celebration that is not only enjoyable and festive, but also safe. For more information, call the fire prevention office 676-6974.

To report a fire or emergency call 112.