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Firefighters share tips to stay safe in holiday season

  • Firefighters spray down the exterior wall of a home on High Street in Turners Falls where a fire started in the fireplace Christmas day, Sunday, December 25, 2016. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Firefighters inspect the exterior wall of a home on High Street in Turners Falls where a fire started in the fireplace Christmas day, Sunday, December 25, 2016. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Firefighters work to gain access to the exterior wall of a home on High Street in Turners Falls where a fire started in the fireplace Christmas day, Sunday, December 25, 2016. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Firefighters work the scene of a chimney fire on High Street in Turners Falls on Christmas Eve, Saturday, December 24, 2016. Greenfield, Turners Falls, Bernardston, Orange, South Deerfield, Northfield and Montague Center fire departments responded. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Firefighters talk at the base of a Turners Falls engine ladder at the scene of a chimney fire on High Street in Turners Falls on Christmas Eve, Saturday, December 24, 2016. Greenfield, Turners Falls, Bernardston, Orange, South Deerfield, Northfield and Montague Center fire departments responded. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Firefighters work the scene of a fire at a home on High Street in Turners Falls which started in the fireplace and spread to the exterior wall, Christmas day, Sunday, December 25, 2016. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Firefighters work the scene of a chimney fire on High Street in Turners Falls on Christmas Eve, Saturday, December 24, 2016. Greenfield, Turners Falls, Bernardston, Orange, South Deerfield, Northfield and Montague Center fire departments responded. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Firefighters spray down the exterior wall of a home on High Street in Turners Falls where a fire started in the fireplace Christmas day, Sunday, December 25, 2016. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Firefighters work the scene of a chimney fire on High Street in Turners Falls on Christmas Eve, Saturday, December 24, 2016. Greenfield, Turners Falls, Bernardston, Orange, South Deerfield, Northfield and Montague Center fire departments responded. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt



Recorder Staff
Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Area firefighters have some pointers to help ensure a safe holiday season.

Orange Fire Chief James Young and Athol Deputy Chief Jeff Parker said Christmas tree fires can be avoided by watering the tree every day and making sure it doesn’t get dry. Young said trees should be removed from the home immediately after Christmas for safety purposes. He noted disposal of Christmas trees by burning outside is not allowed in Orange “just because they burn so quickly.”

Parker said Christmas trees should be checked at least daily for dryness. He also suggests purchasing fresh-cut trees, as pre-cut ones have been given more time to dry out. It is also important, Parker stressed, to make sure there are no cracks or other imperfections in the lights people string around their trees. People should turn off all holiday lights when leaving the home or going to sleep.

There are a few ways to properly dispose of a tree, according to the Massachusetts Christmas Tree Association. After the holidays, people should consider using it as compost, mulch or chips for a garden or a landscape project. You can also clip off the branches and use them as a protective cover on garden plants, or the tree can be used as a bird feeder. The Christmas tree association’s website also states some recycling centers accept trees.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, a third of home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems, and one-fourth start due to the tree being too close to a fireplace, woodstove, radiator or space heater.

Capt. Kurt Seaman of the Greenfield Fire Department said artificial trees are becoming increasing popular — which is typically good because they do not need to be watered and the needles are usually fire-treated with retardant. This retardant, however, often breaks down over time, so caution should still be used, he said.

“Just because a tree is fake, doesn’t mean it’s fireproof,” he said.

Seaman also advises following everyday cooking safety protocols to avoid disasters. People should never leave the home while something is cooking and should always use a timer. It is also wise to “stand by your pan” when boiling, frying or broiling, and to keep oven and broiler doors closed (and turn off the heat) in the event of a fire inside them. Also, pot handles should face inward over the stove and children should be kept 3 feet away to prevent burns.

Turners Falls Fire Chief John Zellmann said his department sees an uptick in calls this time of year. He urges the public to make sure their trees are not near any heat source.

He also said now is a good time to test all smoke detectors in the home and replace batteries if necessary. He said detectors should be tested once a month, anyway.

“Early notification is key ... to saving lives,” he said.

Christmas is the second-worst day (after Thanksgiving) for home fires, according to the state Department of Fire Services. The department suggests considering a switch to new LED lights, which are cooler and use less electricity, and recommends keeping trees out of doorways and exits.

Past fires

Two fires — one on Christmas Eve and one on Christmas — in Turners Falls last year were caused by cracks in chimneys and fireplaces. There were no injuries in either blaze, though both homes on High Street were damaged.

Turners Falls Fire Capt. Kyle Cogswell said anyone who plans on using a wood or pellet stove or fireplace in the winter should have it inspected at least once a year by a professional chimney sweep to make sure there is no damage before use.

Reach Domenic Poli
at: dpoli@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 258
On Twitter: @DomenicPoli