Archived News Release from 2011
For Immediate Release
Redwood City Fire Department Urges Fire Safety During the Holidays
Redwood City, CA - November 18, 2011 - The holiday season is a time for family and good cheer – and unfortunately, it’s also a time of increased risk of home fires. In fact, some holiday activities including cooking, Christmas trees, and candle usage are among the leading causes of home fires. The Redwood City Fire Department is reminding the community that by taking a few preventative steps and following some simple rules of thumb, most home fires can be prevented – and will help everyone to have a fun, festive, and safe holiday season.
This year, the Fire Department’s recommendations focus on holiday cooking safety, since cooking fires continue to be the most common type of fires experienced by US households. These fires are preventable by simply being more attentive to the use of cooking materials and equipment. Here are some important tips:
- Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
- If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you're cooking.
- Keep anything that can catch fire - potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels, or curtains - away from your stovetop.
- Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire if it comes into contact with a gas flame or electric burner so wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
- Plug microwave ovens and other cooking appliances directly into an outlet. Never use an extension cord for a cooking appliance, as it can overload the circuit and cause a fire.
If you have a fire:
- If you have a cooking fire: when in doubt, just get out. When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire. Call 911 after you leave.
- If you do try to fight the fire, be sure others are already getting out and you have a clear path to the exit.
- Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call the fire department for help.
- Always keep an oven mitt and a lid nearby when you are cooking. If a small grease fire starts in a pan, smother the flames by carefully sliding the lid over the pan (make sure you are wearing the oven mitt). Turn off the burner. Do not move the pan. To keep the fire from restarting, leave the lid on until the pan is completely cool.
- In case of an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed to prevent flames from burning you or your clothing.
- If you have a fire in your microwave oven, turn it off immediately and keep the door closed. Never open the door until the fire is completely out. Unplug the appliance if you can safely reach the outlet.
- After a fire, both ovens and microwaves should be checked and/or serviced before being used again.
Because of the large quantity of very hot oil used when someone uses a turkey fryer, and the potential for fire or injury, here are some safety tips specifically for that use:
- Use turkey fryers outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other combustible materials.
- Never use turkey fryers in a garage or on a wooden deck.
- Make sure fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
- Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
- Never let children or pets near the fryer even if it is not in use. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot hours after use.
- To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
- Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
- Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water do not mix; water causes oil to spill over causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.
- The National Turkey Federation recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds in weight.
Burns and Scalds
- Most burns associated with cooking equipment, cookware, and tableware are not caused by fire or flame. In 2009, ranges or ovens were involved in an estimated 17,300 thermal burn injuries seen in U.S. hospital emergency rooms. Microwaves are a leading cause of scald burns.
- Be extra careful when opening a heated food container. Heat food in containers that are marked ‘microwave safe.’ Since foods heat unevenly in the microwave, make sure you stir and test the food before eating.
Children and cooking safety:
- Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove, and around where food and drink are being prepared or carried.
- Keep hot foods and liquids away from the table or counter edges.
- Use the stove’s back burners if you have young children in the home.
- Never hold a child while cooking, drinking, or carrying hot foods or liquids.
Here are other tips for even more holiday fire safety:
- Consider using flameless candles, which look and smell like real candles. However, if you do use traditional candles, keep them at least 12” away from anything that can burn, and remember to blow them out when you leave the room or go to bed. Use candle holders that are sturdy, won’t tip over and are placed on uncluttered surfaces. Avoid using candles in the bedroom.
- If you have an artificial tree, be sure it’s labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.
- If you choose a fresh tree, make sure the green needles don’t fall off when touched; before placing it in the stand, cut 1-2” from the base of the trunk. Add water to the tree stand, and be sure to water it daily.
- Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit, and is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, candles and heat vents or lights.
- Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory, and make sure you know whether they are designed for indoor or outdoor use.
- Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords, or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini-string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.
- Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
- Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving the home or going to bed.
- After Christmas, remove the tree from your home. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside the home.
- Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.
Additional information on home fire safety for the holidays is available from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) website, located at www.nfpa.org/holiday. More information on how to make your home “fire-safe” can be obtained by contacting the Redwood City Fire Department at 650-780-7400 or visiting www.redwoodcity.org/fire.
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Redwood City Fire Department