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Official stresses ‘common sense’ holiday safety

With Friday being the official first day of winter, fireauthorities are offering some “common sense” tips to avoid ahazardous holiday and to have a happy and safe season.

Temperatures so far have only occasionally dipped into the 30ssince the start of fall. Brookhaven Fire Chief Paul Cartwright saidthat has kept smoke scares, which sometimes happen when heaters areturned on for the first time in a while, to only a few.

“So far, we’ve had a safe and quiet season as we head into theholiday,” Cartwright said.

The chief hopes it stays that way, and said residents can takeseveral precautions to see that it does.

“The main thing is don’t load up these extension cords tooheavy,” Cartwright said.

Cartwright said extension cords should be checked before beingput into use, and citizens should not put too many Christmas treelights on one cord. Mentioning a recent house fire in Jackson thatwas attributed to extension cord problems, the chief said residentsshould unplug the lights when they go to bed or when they will beaway from the home for an extended time.

Regarding Christmas trees, Cartwright said live trees should bewatered regularly to keep them from drying out.

Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)added that trees should be discarded promptly when they become dry.The best way to dispose of a dry tree is at a recycling center orhaving it taken by a community pick-up service.

In case of a fire, Cartwright stressed the importance of smokedetectors in helping save lives and prevent property damage.

“That’s a must nowadays,” he said.

FEMA authorities said working detectors, which double thechances of surviving a fire, should be placed on every level of ahome. They said batteries should be checked monthly and changed atleast once a year.

Cooking concerns also get fire officials’ attention. Whenpreparing meals, Cartwright said citizens should not leave foodunattended.

“That’s one of our biggest problems: people overlook food andleave it on the stove when they go next door,” the chief said.”That gives us some problems.”

Cooking-related hazards can happen at any time of the year.However, Cartwright said the dangers are more so during theholidays because people are cooking more in preparation for specialevents and gatherings.

Candles are a bright and festive holiday tradition, butCartwright said they can be hazardous as well.

Cartwright and FEMA officials said lit candles should be kept instable holders and placed where they cannot be easily knocked down.Also, people should not leave candles burning when they leave theirhomes.

Fireworks are prohibited in the city but they can be fired inthe county. Cartwright said users should be aware of and avoidareas with dry pine straw, which could catch fire from fireworksdebris.

“That’s really a hazard there,” the chief said.

Cartwright said exercising common sense will help citizens havea good holiday season.

“We’d like everybody to have a safe holiday,” Cartwright said,”but if they need us, we’ll be there.”