Feature Search

Beat the holiday heat

  • Published
  • By Airman Whitney Tucker
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
According to the National Fire Prevention Association, in 2009, U.S. fire departments responded to 362,500 home structure fires. These fires caused 12,650 civilian injuries, 2,565 civilian deaths and $7.6 billion in direct damage.

The occurrence of house fires tends to spike during the holiday season. To prevent tragedy and loss throughout this time of celebration, it is vital to know the proper precautions to take when cooking and decorating for the holidays.

"On Andersen Air Force Base we rarely see house fires get out of hand," said 36th Civil Engineer Squadron assistant fire chief, Ernest Rios. "Most of the housing is concrete and much less likely to fuel a fire than wood and other materials. However, the simplest tasks often result in fires causing damage and costing the occupant hard-earned money to replace."

As most would suspect, the majority of house fires begin in the kitchen. Having a basic knowledge of cooking fire safety is a first-line defense against falling victim to commonly made mistakes.

"The most prevalent fire hazard we encounter here is unattended cooking," Rios said. "Distractions such as entertaining guests, looking after children and last minute house cleaning often lead people to leave food cooking while they are away. The best thing you can do to prevent fires caused by unattended cooking is simply to have someone watch the kitchen if you need to leave."

Turkey and ham are a favorite holiday indulgence. Each year, they fly off the commissary shelves during the holiday season. However, cooking these foods can become a fire hazard if not prepared by appropriate and cautious means.

"Turkey fryers are a popular cooking tool during the months from November to January," Rios said. "Though they cut cooking time significantly, there are several reasons I discourage people from using them. The units are prone to tipping over and spilling hot oil. Also, partially frozen turkeys placed in the fryer can cause a spillover effect which can result in extensive fire. Lastly, with no thermostat controls, the units also have the potential to overheat oil to the point of combustion."

Holiday lights and decorations are a timeless tradition and can be a beautiful and festive promotion of cheer when used properly. However, when used in inappropriate environments, these accessories can pose a serious threat.

"The hazard we come across most commonly when dealing with lighting is the use of indoor lights outside," Rios said. "These particular lights are not manufactured to withstand inclement weather and the elements. Using them outdoors can lead to short-circuiting, loss of power and even electrocution."

The most anticipated season of the year has arrived, facilitating happiness and giving across the globe. In order to enjoy the holiday season worry-free, it is important to remain vigilant and mindful of fire and safety tips.

"House fires are the cause of a lot of turmoil and tragedy across the U.S.," Rios said. "The impact of loss would be amplified during this time of togetherness. Following a few simple precautions can help to keep the holidays happy."

For more safety tips, visit the National Fire Prevention Association Web site at www.nfpa.org.