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Mayor, Fire Marshal Warn Residents to Practice Fire Safety this Holiday Season

On Tuesday, Mayor Richard J. Berry and Albuquerque Fire Marshal Victor Marquez warned Albuquerque residents to use caution relating to lighting and maintenance of Christmas trees, fireplaces and any outdoor fires.

This week, AFD will be placing notices with fire safety tips in this month’s outgoing water bills. Inspectors will also be visiting malls to pass out flyers and make sure retailers are also observing all of the city’s fire codes.

“We want this holiday season to be safe and joyous for everyone,” Mayor Berry said. “It’s important that we remain alert to the fire dangers that exist at our homes.”

November and December are AFD’s busiest months as people put up Christmas trees, light up their fireplaces and burn leaves. In December 2009, AFD responded to 140 fires that caused an estimated $500,000 in damage. Two of the fires were caused by fireplaces that didn’t have clean chimneys and 14 fires were started by people burning trash.

So far this year, five people have died in house fires in Albuquerque. Nationally about 300 fires and 30 injuries are caused annually due to Christmas trees.

“We would love to have a quiet holiday season in which we don’t receive any calls of house fires,” Marquez said. “Taking simple steps in your home can prevent a tragedy.”

AFD recommends the following to protect your home from a fire:

• Have a certified chimney sweep clean and inspect your chimney and fireplace annually for creosote build-up, cracks, crumbling bricks and obstructions.
• Place fireplace or wood stove ashes outdoors in a covered metal container at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn.
• Don’t burn trash including gift wrapping. The wrapping may ignite suddenly and cause a flash fire.
• Portable heaters need at least 3 feet of empty space between the heater and everything else like furniture, curtains, papers and people.
• Make sure the heater is UL approved and has a tip-over shut off function.
• Check the cord and make sure it is not frayed. If frayed, it is time for a new heater.
• Never use extension cords with portable heaters. It is a common cause of fire.
• An adult should always be present when a space heater is used around children.
• ALWAYS turn off portable heaters and make sure fireplaces and candles are extinguished before family members leave the house or go to sleep.
• Make sure Christmas trees are mounted securely and away from any combustible materials or heat sources such as fireplaces or candles.
• Water the tree everyday.
• When the needles get brittle or dull and begin to fall from the tree, it is time for the tree to go back outside.
• Use lights that are UL approved. Check every set of lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, and loose connect ions before using. Throw away anything that is not in perfect condition.
• Use no more than three sets of lights per single extension. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
• ALWAYS turn off all tree lights and decorations before you go to bed or leave your home.
• Never place a burning candle or luminaria near anything that can quickly ignite, such as curtains, Christmas trees, brush, etc.
• Always keep candles and luminarias away from children and pets as they could get burned if touched.
• Never place candles or luminarias on combustible surfaces such as wood porches or near dry grass or leaves.
• Never light luminarias during windy conditions where the bag can be ignited and burning debris could spread the fire.
• Keep candles and luminarias away from other decorations.
• Be sure candles have sturdy/stable bases and are placed where they can not be bumped or brushed against.
• ALWAYS monitor candles and luminarias when burning.

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