State Fire Marshall on holiday fire safety

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Whether you’re lighting up the Christmas tree or a menorah this holiday season, it’s important to remember safety when celebrating holiday traditions and celebrations. State Fire Marshal officials met in downtown Tampa today to talk about the ways people can prevent fire hazards from foiling family plans.

The weather outside is frightful for frigid Floridians, but keeping safe is just as important as keeping warm. This morning Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Alex Sink, who is also the State Fire Marshall, joined Tampa Fire Rescue Chief Dennis Jones at Tampa Fire Station #1 to highlight holiday fire safety precautions. Jones talked about some of the things everyone can do to be safe this holiday season.

Julius Halas is director of the Florida Division of State Fire Marshal and has been in the fire service for 35 years. He shared stories about some close calls he had with disaster, and some of the ways to ensure fire prevention.

CFO Alex Sink was appalled at a turkey frying stunt last Friday. DJ’s from a morning radio show on WFLZ attempted to fry a turkey inside their van. The show’s van was incinerated and a firefighter was injured on the scene. Sink said that the stunt was far from an educational demonstration, and was, rather, “ridiculous”.

Just last night, St. Petersburg fire fighters rescued a family from a fire that started when a toddler tipped over a candle atop a television set. Sink said the story should be taken as a cautionary tale.

Sink reminds homeowners that one way to help fire proof a home is to make sure their smoke detectors are working, and turned on.

Each year State Fire Marshal Sink provides safety tips around the holidays to remind Floridians of the seriousness of fire damages in an effort to protect our citizens. Simple life-saving steps Floridians can take to ensure a safe and happy holiday include:

— Dry Christmas trees are dangerous fire hazards — make sure you buy a fresh tree with needles that are green and hard to pull back from the branches.

— Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks.

— Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks, and make sure you keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

— Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up.

— Do not overload electrical outlets or link more than three light strands. Make sure to periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch.

— All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.

— Avoid using lit candles, but if you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down.

— Never put lit candles on a tree or leave lit candles unattended.