• 30°

Local firefighters discuss holiday safety tips

As the holiday season approaches, local fire departments are reminding locals to keep fire safety in mind.

According to a recent report from the U.S. Fire Administration, fire departments across the nation respond to an average of 2,000 fires in residential dwellings on Thanksgiving Day. Of those, 69 percent of those fires can be attributed to small cooking fires. The report also cites three primary causes of Thanksgiving fires — carelessness or unintentional actions, combustible materials too close to open flames and electrical malfunctions.

Deep frying turkey is a popular practice in the south and with that comes several fire risks. Some tips that will help prevent fires related to frying a turkey include;

Ensure food is completely thawed prior to placing in hot grease

Make sure your turkey fryer is outside on a non-combustible surface with adequate space from combustible items.

Make sure grease is at the appropriate temperature before placing food in grease. Recommended oil temperature is between 350-365 degrees.

Avoid overfilling the pot with grease.

4 Lower the turkey slowly into the grease to avoid splatter that could arc a fire.

Ben Milam, Fire Safety and Public Educator with the LaFayette Fire Department recommends placing fryers on a level surface, preferably concrete ,and maintaining a distance of 25 feet away from a structure. Plus, make sure it is not placed under power lines.

West Point Fire Chief Mitt Smith encourages everyone to not only keep fire safety in mind but also remain vigilant against the spread of COVID-19.

“Even though family gatherings are important, we want to encourage all to be safe. Also, due to the COVID-19 virus, these concerns may cause many of our traditional Thanksgiving events to be different. The current weather projections for next week may allow families to make wise decisions on gatherings and potential locations for such gatherings,” Smith said.

Smith recalls being called to a house fire call where a local resident placed a ham in the oven on Thanksgiving morning and left the house to run to the store. Smith urges people to never leave their kitchen unattended when cooking.

In addition to keeping the kitchen safe, Smith points out that many in our community enjoy deer hunting during the holiday.

“Be careful while hunting to include making your family aware of your plan — what time are you going, when will you be home, where will you be, how do I get in touch with you if needed, what county or state are you hunting in, which is important if you have to call 911 for assistance, who will be with you,” Smith said.

It is important to have properly installed and working smoke alarms inside your home. East Alabama Fire Chief Kerry Pickard said, “the best line of defense in the event of a fire is a smoke alarm. Please make sure you have a smoke alarm installed this winter. If you do not have one and live within the East Alabama Fire District jurisdiction, please give us a call today to have your free smoke alarm installed.”

Another important factor in keeping you and your family safe from fires is to have a well planned and executed evacuation plan in place.

“Make sure you have an evacuation plan in place with all people in your home and that you have a meeting place outside of your home far enough to prevent danger to you and your family. A mailbox, a tree in the front yard, or the end of the driveway — somewhere for everyone to gather to make sure everyone is out of the house,” said Lanett Firefighter/Paramedic Tyler Sheridan. “Always evacuate, reach a safe place, and call 911 for fire emergencies.”

Many in our area use an open fire fireplace as a heating source. Smith says to be sure to clean the fireplace and chimney as recommended by the manufacturer.

“As our temperatures begin to change, it is time to check and service our heating systems,” Smith says.

“Cleaning the heating units, including the filters, will help us to have better performance of the units as well as remove the combustible debris that will smell and possible “smoke up” our homes.”

Milam adds, “you always want to get a good screen protector in front of that fireplace and you don’t want to load it down with a bunch of logs and a bunch of trash or paper, you want to keep it moderate, but enough to warm your house and warm your family.”

Space heaters are also a common cause of fires during the colder months Milam says.

“With space heaters, you want to keep a three-foot radius around the space heater, you want to keep everything away from them. You don’t want to put them on carpet, put it on a hard surface. Keep it away from the blinds, towels, blankets and sheets,” Milam said.

Real Christmas trees also present a major fire hazard if not properly maintained.

“You always want to keep water in the pot that it sits in, those needles will dry out,” Milam said. Milam also pointed out that you should never place a tree close to an electrical outlet.