Ayers Offers Holiday Safety Advice

Staff Writer

The holiday season is often an enjoyable time for local residents, filled with family, food and cozy comforts. Unfortunately, it is also a time for increased fire danger.

According to statistics from the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather (OCSW), as of Oct. 12, there were 91 accidental residential fire fatalities in Ohio. In 2017, the state saw a total of 107 accidental residential fire fatalities. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) adds that half of home heating fires are reported from December to February.

"The easiest way to keep your family and your home safe is to practice common sense," St. Marys Fire Chief Doug Ayers said.

Additionally, when it comes to heating units, Ayers said to ensure residents have a working carbon monoxide detector to alert anyone in the home of a buildup of the deadly gas. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to those of the flu — headaches, nausea, vomiting, tiredness — and can come on over a few days or a few hours, depending on the rate of gas buildup.

While the chief said his department doesn't usually see an increase in fires in the winter months — adding that from Dec.1, 2017 to Jan. 31, 2018 the SMFD had zero fire runs — that doesn't mean the city is immune to the hazards of holiday fires. One of the fastest and most dangerous holiday hazards are live Christmas trees, as they can become completely engulfed in flames in a matter of seconds.

"When picking a live Christmas tree, you want to make sure it is a healthy tree — look at the needles, make sure they're soft and there are none already falling off — and when you first get it, make sure you cut off the bottom inch or so to open that tree up to take water, then water it every day," Ayers said. "Remove your live trees as soon as possible."

OCSW statistics supported the chief's statement, adding that most Christmas tree fires occur on or after New Year's Day when decorations are removed and people are more likely to forget to water the tree.

The NFPA took that stat a step further, posting a video on Youtube (search NFPA Christmas tree fire) demonstrating the time it takes for a dry tree to burn from a single spark.

Some safety features are simple to follow and require no additional purchase. Keeping a safe distance from open flames, such as candles or fireplaces, or heat sources is the easiest way to enjoy a fire-free holiday. Even if all safety precautions are followed, the chief added there is one additional safety feature that is on call 24/7 at 222 Indiana Ave.

"When in doubt, call us," he said.