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Fire safety vital during holidays

Published: 03:26PM November 8th, 2012

As the busy holiday season approaches, Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Fire and Emergency Services fire inspector Ed Chavez is reminding everyone to keep fire safety in mind.

“We get into a rush and we get hurried because we want everything to be perfect,” Chavez said. “But you have to take time to make sure that whatever you’re doing is being done safely.”

One of the biggest safety challenges during this time of year is activity in the kitchen and unattended cooking, Chavez said. According to the National Fire Protection Association, Thanksgiving is the leading day of the year for home fires involving cooking equipment.

“It is highly encouraged to stay in the kitchen when there is cooking going on,” Chavez said.

In the event of an oven fire, turning the oven off and keeping the door closed will extinguish the fire. Keep a lid nearby when cooking on the stovetop to smother a small grease fire, and remember to turn the stove off.

“A fire needs heat, fuel and oxygen. When you eliminate one of those factors, the fire is going to go out,” Chavez said. “But even if you have a fire and you’ve extinguished it, you still want to call us.”

Chavez also advises keeping a three-foot kid-free zone around the cooking area to help protect children from spills and hot liquids. Activities that keep kids out of the kitchen, like games or puzzles, are also a good idea. If kids want to help, preparations like setting the table can be done outside of the kitchen.

Large groups of people gather inside homes during the holiday season, so always remember to maintain two ways out of the residence, Chavez said. For instance, don’t set up a table that blocks the back door.

Turkey fryers that use a large amount of hot oil have become popular over recent years, but Chavez and the NFPA do not recommend their use.

“The biggest mistakes people make are overfilling the kettle with oil or not thoroughly thawing the turkey before it’s inserted,” Chavez said. “They are also flimsy and it doesn’t take much to tip them over.”

Even though JBLM Regulation No. 420-30 states that barbecue grills or other open flame devices are prohibited on balconies and should be 15 feet away from any structural wall, there is an exception to policy for service members and their families residing in Town Center on Lewis Main.

“I still wouldn’t use a turkey fryer on a porch or balcony,” Chavez said. “But if you use one, follow directions and have a fire extinguisher and telephone handy.”

Chavez also cautions against the use of candles with outdoor materials, like leaves, tree branches or pine cones. “Remember you’re working with an open flame. Put the candle in a glass container so it’s not exposed to any flammable materials,” he said.

Now is also a good time to change the batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, and test them to make sure they are working.

Never disconnect smoke alarms, Chavez said.

For more information about holiday fire safety, please contact Fire and Emergency Services at 966-7156.