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Local officials from the American Red Cross are encouraging extra safety precautions after a recent uptick in family residential fires.

“I've noticed a general uptick, unfortunately, in the incidences of family residential fires with injuries and fatalities across the Alabama/Mississippi Region of the Red Cross over the past two weeks," said Disaster Program Manager Gail Thompson in an email to The Times. "The trend concerns me as we are just now approaching our first real weather cold snaps and our first Thanksgiving with COVID under relative control."

Thompson explained that there seems to be two main causes for the fires they are seeing recently.

“Right now the fires are heating and cooking related,” said Thompson.

In addition to the obvious-- installing and ensuring the proper function of smoke alarms, making and practicing a home exit plan in the event of a fire-- Thompson provided some guidance for fire safety, including a few holiday specific tips:

HEATING SOURCES

Unattended space heaters that are too close to or tipped over onto flammable materials OR are new & powerful and overwhelm the electrical circuitry of an older mobile home or residence are a huge cause for concern. Never go to sleep with space heaters running in another part of the house, and always make sure those in the room with you are at least three feet away from any flammable object or materials. Don't leave the house with space heaters running unattended

COOKING

Don't leave the stove or oven unattended when on & operating! Keep flammable and/or meltable objects away from the stove top (e.g. paper towels, hand towels, wooden/plastic spoons, jugs/jars/cans of oil or grease, etc.)

If something on the stove catches on fire:

  • Remove the heat source. Turn off the eye or turn off the circuit breaker.
  • Smother the fire but putting a lid or pan on the fire. Do NOT move the pan/pot that's on fire and risk receiving burns.
  • Cover the fire with flour or use an A/B/C fire extinguisher. DO NOT use water or an A rated Fire Extinguisher.

ADDITIONAL TIPS

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas and run regular monthly tests to ensure they are fully operational. Ensure that all family members-- including children-- know what the alarm sounds like and what to do if they hear one.
  • Talk with all family members about a fire escape plan and practice the plan twice a year, including knowing who to contact in the event that they cannot find one another.
  • Ensure that all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home and know the family meeting spot outside of your home
  • Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year. Press the smoke alarm test button or yell “Fire“ to alert everyone that they must get out.
  • Make sure everyone knows how to call 9-1-1.
  • Teach household members to STOP, DROP and ROLL if their clothes should catch on fire.
  • Check all holiday light cords to ensure they aren’t frayed or broken. Don’t string too many strands of lights together — no more than three per extension cord.
  • Turn off all holiday lights when going to bed or leaving the house.
  • Ensure outside decorations are for outdoor use and fasten lights securely to your home or trees. If using hooks or nails outside, make sure they are insulated to avoid an electrocution or fire hazard.
  • If buying an artificial tree, look for the fire-resistant label. When putting it up, keep it away from fireplaces, radiators and other sources of heat. Never use electric lights on metallic trees.
  • If getting a live tree, make sure it’s fresh and keep it watered. To test if the tree is fresh, bend the needles up and down to make sure no needles fall off. Do not leave your live tree unattended with lights on.
  • Don’t light the fireplace if hanging stockings or other decorations on the mantel.
  • Check the labels of older decorations. Some older tinsel is lead-based. If using angel hair, wear gloves to avoid irritation. Avoid breathing in artificial snow.
  • If using a ladder, be extra careful. Make sure to have good, stable placement and wear shoes that allow for good traction.
  • If a fire occurs in your home, GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL FOR HELP. Never go back inside for anything or anyone.

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