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100th CES reminds Team Mildenhall to stay safe this holiday season

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace) Images courtesy of Jupiter Images/copyright 2009

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace) Images courtesy of Jupiter Images/copyright 2009

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- For most, the holiday season represents a time for family, festivities and good cheer. What few consider is that the holiday season is a time when there is an increased risk of home fires due to extra activities.

Christmas trees, candle usage, increased cooking and holiday decorations significantly contribute to the causes of seasonal home fires. Add to that the hectic nature of the holidays, while people are trying to accomplish multiple tasks at one time, and the chances for home fires grow even more.

Fortunately, with a little added awareness and some minor adjustments to holiday cooking and decorating, the season can remain festive and safe for everybody.

With unattended cooking as the leading cause of home fires and injuries, it's important to remain in the kitchen while frying, grilling or broiling food. Most cooking fires involve the stovetop, so keep anything that can catch fire at a safe distance. Remember to turn off the stove when leaving the kitchen, even if it's for a short period of time.

If simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer as a reminder. The RAF Mildenhall Fire Department also suggests creating a 'kid-free zone' of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food and drinks are prepared or carried.

Candles are widely used in homes throughout the holidays. November and December are the peak months for home candle fires.

The National Fire Protection Association statistics show that more than half of all candle fires start because the candles had been placed too close to other items.

The RAF Mildenhall Fire Department encourages residents to consider using flameless candles, which look and smell like real candles. However, if a member chooses to use traditional candles, keep them at least 12 inches away from anything that can ignite, and remember to blow them out when leaving the room or going to bed.

Use candle holders that are sturdy and placed on uncluttered surfaces. Avoid using candles in the bedroom. Two out of five candle fires in the last year began in the bedroom. Lastly, never leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle.

According to NFPA, fire departments annually respond to an average of 250 structure fires caused by Christmas trees. Nearly half of them are caused by electrical problems, and one in four resulted from a heat source that's too close to the tree.

The RAF Mildenhall Fire Department offers the following advice for picking, placing and lighting the tree:

· If you have an artificial tree, make 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 to 2 inches 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, such as 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 that has 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 going to bed.
· After Christmas, dispose of the tree. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside the home.

By following these fire prevention tips and measures, members can greatly reduce the risk of fire in their homes and enjoy a safe holiday season. The holidays can quickly turn from joyful to tragic when a fire occurs, by taking simple precautions, Team Mildenhall can avoid potential fire hazards and make this time of year a healthy and happy one.