Fire safety tips for a safe holiday
A home in the New Savannah housing area at Hunter Army Airfield caught fire, Nov. 28. Hunter Station Chief Tom Wiley was the incident commander for the fire. It is one of two houses that caught fire in a span of two days.

HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. - Two house fires, in a span of two days, took place at Hunter.

The first fire, in the New Savannah housing area, was a major fire that resulted in a total loss to the home, though the cause of the blaze is still under investigation. The cause of the second fire, in the New Gannam housing area, was a candle left unattended in the bedroom that was placed too closely to combustible materials, which resulted in government and personal loss.

That home is currently being renovated and the Family will be able to move back in.

These house fires bring the issue of fire safety to the forefront of the Stewart-Hunter community. The following fire safety tips from a discussion with Hunter Fire Station Chief Tom Wiley are meant to promote awareness and the prevention of fires, so Families can enjoy a safe holiday season:

Q: Tom, 44 percent of residential fires are started by cooking. Can you tell us the most common ways cooking fires are started, and what we can do to prevent them?

A: An important thing to remember is stay in the kitchen when you are cooking -- whether you are using a stove, oven or even the microwave. The number-one cause of fires on military installations is unattended cooking, which is consistent with the national statistics. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher nearby.

Q: If a cooking fire does start in our home, what should we do?

A: You need to take what you are cooking away from the heat, and cover it up. If that does not solve the problem, dial 9-1-1 and get out as soon as possible. Once you are out, you need to stay out.

Q: It's also important to point out that all homes on Hunter Army Airfield and Fort Stewart have a fire stop above each oven range and a smoke detector. How often do we need to check our home smoke detectors to make sure they function properly when needed?

A: You want to check your smoke detectors once a month for proper operation. There is a test button on it and you simply press the test button. Also, you need to change the batteries in your smoke detector at least twice a year -- we suggest doing it when you change your clocks, at "spring forward" and "fall back."

Q: With it being the holiday season, what do we need to be more mindful of when we string-up Christmas lights around and inside our homes?

A: Make sure the lights have been UL tested. Do not plug too many strands of lights in together at one time -- we recommend that you don't go over three strands. Do not forget to inspect your lights and your cords prior to hanging them up and plugging them in. Make sure your outdoor lights are approved for outdoors and your indoor lights are approved for indoors.

Q: What other fire hazards do we need to be aware of during the holiday season?

A: Christmas trees are another fire hazard that one should be aware of during the holiday season. If you buy an artificial tree, make sure it has a fire-resistant rating. If you buy a real tree, make sure it is not too dry. You can test out a tree's dryness by simply testing out one of its needles and see if it bounces back; if the needle does not bounce back or it breaks-off in your hand than it is too dry. If you get a real tree, water it at least every other day.

Q: How can we make sure we are keeping our home safe while also keeping our Families warm during the winter months?

A: Anytime you have a space heater, you want to make sure to keep combustibles at least three feet away from the heater. If you have a fire place, keep combustibles away from it as well. Just like lights, you want to make sure you turn off the space heater before you go to bed.

Q: If the worst does happen and we have a fire in our home, what are the steps we need to take to get ourselves and our loved ones out quickly and safely?

A: The important thing is that the Family needs to have an evacuation plan in place and they need to practice it. Once you are out, you need to stay out. Do not go back in to get valuables. The reason for this is that smoke actually causes more injuries than the fire itself. Please remember, all fires need to be reported to the fire department for your safety.

Be aware that an estimated of 54,500 heating fires occur each year in the United States, which is the second leading cause of home fires behind cooking.

Important things to remember are that Christmas lights, candles and heating systems are fine to use in our homes as long as we remember these safety tips to keep our homes and Families safe. Use common sense to prevent fires, and make sure a fire escape plan is made in case a fire does occur in the home.

Page last updated Wed December 7th, 2011 at 16:00