By Scott Prater
The year-end holiday time frame is arguably the most anticipated time of year for many people. As the kids get a much-deserved break from school, many parents take extended time off to unwind and soak up some holiday spirit. Nothing provides a holiday feel better than the glow of decorative candles or the scent of a freshly cut pine tree.
More than likely, the emphasis on warmth and the visual stimulation of holiday décor involves some type of flame or electrical current. Candles, electrical lighting and that freshly-cut evergreen tree all bring a heightened level of fire danger, increasing the chance for a possible tragedy. But by following a few easy precautions, people can substantially cut their chances of experiencing a mishap during this time of celebration.
The National Fire Protection Association estimates that Christmas Trees account for more than 250 home fires each year, while holiday and decorative lights account for another 170.
“Fans of natural trees should opt for a freshly cut one,” 50th Space Wing Ground Safety manager Tech. Sgt. Sarah Law said. “To test a tree, strike the stump down on a firm surface. If needles fall off, the tree is too dry already.”
Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branch, and the trunk should be sticky to the touch. The NFPA advises home owners to keep natural trees away from heat sources like furnace vents and fire places because the heat generated will serve to dry out the tree.
It’s also important to keep a live tree hydrated. Freshly cut trees can absorb more than a gallon of water their first day in place.
“The big thing is keep the tree watered and think about safety when creating your decorative plan,” Sergeant Law said. “Keep your kids in mind. Don’t hang breakable ornaments near the bottom; don’t place any candy down low and make sure the kids can’t reach any garland they could easily get wrapped up in.”
Following responsible watering and child-safety guidelines should help mitigate fire dangers in the home, but people need to also think about fire safety when dealing with electrical lighting as well.
Sergeant Law indicated that it’s a good practice to replace decorative light sets every four or five years and to also check and replace any light set with worn or damaged wires. The same advice also applies when decorating outdoors.
Schriever housing area residents can install decorative lights to the exterior of their homes during the holiday time frame, but residents must gain approval from Tierra Vista Communities prior to installation.
According to section 5.8 of the Tierra Vista Community’s Resident Guide, residents must follow strict installation requirements provided by TVC and adhere to lighting times (6 p.m. to 10 p.m. most days).
Lights are prohibited on roofs, roof edges or any location where climbing or roof access is required and residents are advised not to overload electrical outlets.
Aside from the safety concerns at home, members need to be prepared when they hit the road.
“Especially here at Schriever, people need to make sure they’ve winterized their vehicle, that they have a viable safety kit and that they know what to do if they get stranded,” Sergeant Law said. “Proper planning for trips, both long and short, is important too. If you know the weather is going to be challenging, then you need to plan your alternate routes.”
This time of year brings an almost unlimited supply of holiday parties, which provides Airmen with yet more chances to create solid designated-driver/alcohol awareness plans.
“This time of year can be a hectic time with social events, decorating, shopping and traveling — but do yourself a favor and slow down long enough to think ahead and have a plan,” said Lt. Col. Michael Wulfestieg, 50th SW chief of safety. “Your friends, family and wingmen will be glad you put safety first, and it will make the holidays more enjoyable for everyone.”