Seasonal Safety

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Holidays are a wonderful time for celebration. Unfortunately, many of the things that make this time of year special also bring additional risk.  The U.S. Fire Administration reports that over the winter season each year there are over a half million fires, causing $3 billion in property loss, 1,900 deaths, and almost 8,000 injuries.  Take holiday fire safety seriously and keep your family from becoming a statistic.  The San Marcos Fire Department would like to offer the following holiday season fire prevention safety tips.  By following this advice, your family can reduce the possibility of a devastating fire during the holidays.

Candle Care 

Christmas Tree Precautions 

Holiday Lighting

Holiday Decorations

Be Prepared 

Candle Care

Avoid using candles whenever possible.  Candle fires increase fourfold during the holiday season.  If you do choose to use candles, make sure they are in a secure place where they cannot be easily knocked over.  Keep candles away from children.  Candles should also be kept away from curtains and draperies and never be put in windows or near exits.  Keep candles away from Christmas trees.  Make sure to check all rooms for lit candles prior to leaving the house or going to bed.  Do not leave burning candles unattended.  For more information on candle safety, please visit our Candle Safety page. 

Christmas Tree Precautions

Statistics show that when a Christmas tree is the first material ignited in a residential structure fire, the dollar loss increases by three times and fatalities increase by an alarming eight times. 

Selecting a Freshly Cut Tree
When selecting a fresh tree, the needles should be green and hard to pull from the branches.  Bend a few needles in half; if they bend and do not break, the tree is probably fresh.  The trunk should be sticky to the touch.  Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground.  If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, and has dried out making it a fire hazard.

Caring for Your Tree
Before putting your tree up, cut off about two inches of the trunk.  Place the tree in a sturdy tree stand and immediately fill the stand with water.  Locate the tree away from heat sources such as heater outlets, wood stoves and fireplaces.  A heater will dry out the tree, casing it to be more easily ignited, so put the tree in the coolest location possible.  Never leave a lighted tree unattended.  Do not put your tree up early or leave it up for longer than two weeks.  Make sure you keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.  Commercial floral preservatives can be added to the water to help keep the tree fresh.

Disposing of Your Tree
As soon as the tree becomes dry, dispose of it promptly.  Never put the tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.  The rapid burning and excessive heat can damage the firebox and chimney creating a fire hazard.  Holiday tree recycling bins will be located across from City Hall for two weeks following the Christmas holiday.  For more information on tree recycling, please call the City of San Marcos at (760) 744-1050.

Artificial Trees
If you opt for an artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.  Although the tree can still catch fire, it should resist burning and be extinguished early.  Never use electric lights on a metal or aluminum tree.

Holiday Decorative Lighting

Indoor Lights
Each year, inspect holiday lights for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up.  Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.

Outdoor Lights
Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory and marked for outdoor use.  Turn off electricity to the supply outlet before working with outdoor wiring.  Run all outdoor cords above ground, keeping them out of puddles and snow.  To prevent moisture from entering bulb sockets, turn the bulbs so they face the ground.

Holiday Decorations

Whenever possible, use nonflammable or flame retardant decorations.  Make sure decorations are kept away from all heat sources.  Never put wrapping paper in a fireplace or wood-burning stove. It can throw off dangerous sparks and produce a chemical buildup in the home that can cause an explosion.

Be Prepared

As in every season, make sure you have working smoke detectors.  Smoke detectors should be installed in all sleeping areas, hallways leading to the sleeping areas, and all levels of your home.  Test your detectors monthly, making sure they are clean and have fresh batteries.  For more information on smoke detectors, visit the Smoke Detector page.

Finally, know when and how to call for help.  Keep fire department, police, ambulance, doctor, and other emergency service numbers posted on or near your telephone.  Keep a UL listed, 2A 10BC, fire extinguisher in your kitchen and know how to use it.  For more information on fire extinguishers, please visit our Fire Extinguisher page.

Remember to practice your emergency escape plan with all members of your family so you will be ready in the event of an emergency.

For more information on seasonal safety tips, contact Deputy Fire Marshal Astrid Starcher.

San Marcos Fire Department
Deputy fire marshal
fire inspector
Fire inspector
1 Civic Center Drive
San Marcos, CA 92069

Astrid Starcher
(760) 744-1050, ext. 3408

 Randy Hill

(760) 744-1050, ext. 3407

 Kenneth Kim

(760) 744-1050, ext. 3453