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28/11/2011 - Festive fire warning

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With the festive season fast approaching, Cumbria County Council's Fire and Rescue Service is warning people to take extra care and prevent accidental fires during the Christmas period.

Statistics show the chances of dying in an accidental house fire increase by 50 per cent at Christmas due to a variety of factors including an increased use of candles, festive lights and decorations as well as people getting into the festive spirit and being more careless due to the effects of alcohol.

So to help people have a merry but safe Christmas Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service is issuing hints and tips for festive fire safety.

Cumbria’s Chief Fire Officer Dominic Harrison said: "While of course we want people to have a merry and relaxing Christmas and New Year, it’s important that everyone is aware of the potential fire dangers around the home during the festive season.

"Just taking a few simple precautions though can prevent what should be one of the most enjoyable times of the year turning to tragedy.”

Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service’s top 10 tips for keeping safe from fire this Christmas are as follows:

- Ensure you have a working smoke alarm installed on all levels of your home. Test your smoke alarms weekly and never remove batteries.

- Never leave cooking unattended and avoid cooking while under the influence of alcohol. The majority of fires start in the kitchen so this is a high risk area. Always turn off kitchen appliances when you have finished cooking.

- Never leave candles unattended. Keep decorations, cards and wrapping paper away from candles, fires, lights and heaters.

- Ensure you switch off Christmas tree and fairy lights and unplug them before you go to bed, or leave the house. Check your lights conform to the British Standard (BS EN 60598).

- Always use an RCD (residual current device) on outdoor electrical equipment (This safety device can save lives by instantly switching off the power if there is a fault and can be found in any DIY store).

- Don’t overload sockets – ensure only one plug per socket. Always turn off plugs when they are not in use, except those that are designed to be left on, like freezers.

- Make sure cigarettes are extinguished properly and never smoke in bed. Put it out, right out.

- Check on older relatives and neighbours this Christmas to ensure their safety at this time of year.

- Ask the experts – Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service offer free home fire risk checks to identify potential fire risks and advise what to do to reduce or prevent them. This includes the free installation of a smoke alarm – the ideal gift for keeping your family safe

- And finally, in the event of fire - get out, stay out and call 999.

Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service operates a freephone number - 0800 358 4777 - which people can call to arrange a free home fire safety check and receive other useful safety information. Landlords who would like their properties checked can also call this number.

Christmas tree and open fire dangers

One part of Christmas safety that people are often not aware of is the dangers posed by real Christmas trees. It takes just 49 seconds for a dry tree to completely involve the room in fire, so people with real trees need to ensure that they keep the tree in a suitable stand that can be kept topped up with water.

People who rent their home could also be at more risk than owner-occupiers because of uncertainty about who should check that the property is safe - landlords as well as tenants should carry out regular checks.

To help people reduce their fire risk this winter they should be aware of all the potential dangers in their home. Open fires may provide a relaxing and atmospheric way to keep warm, and while portable heaters can be easily moved it’s still important to use them safely by always using a fire guard to protect against flying sparks and hot embers. Also make sure embers are properly put out before you go out or go to bed.

Portable heaters should be kept away from curtains and furniture and never use them for drying clothes or keep them on overnight or when you are out.

Electric blankets can help you keep warm during the cold nights, but fires can be devastating with 440 injuries resulting from every 1,000 fires, started by an electric blanket.

Candles can also be used to light up the dark evenings but as with open fires, a naked flame brings risks if they are not treated with respect. Candles should be secured in a proper holder, and away from materials that may catch fire such as curtains. It is also very important to put out candles completely before you leave the room or go to bed.

Media enquiries to communications adviser John Ballard on 01228 221752