Don’t get fired up over the holidays
Last updated 12/14/2016 at Noon
A quick-thinking Mukilteo resident stopped a kitchen fire from spreading a few weeks ago.
Firefighters were called to a house fire on the 4800 block of 99th Street Southwest, where they found a resident with minor burns and a smoke-filled home.
Assistant Fire Chief Brian McMahan said investigators determined the smoke was from an accidental stove fire that started when a child distracted the cook for a moment. When the cook returned, flames were spreading up from the frying pan to the microwave and cabinet.
“The quick thinking of the occupant to cover the pan instead of putting water on an oil/grease type fire helped stop the spread, and actually controlled the fire,” McMahan said.
With the holiday season in full force, it’s not just a time to be jolly; it’s a time to be jolly good careful.
The holidays are, after all, a busy time. We can be careless.
It’s easy to get distracted by a child. We forget to blow out candles burning near the Christmas tree. We overload circuits to put on a dazzling display. We fall off the ladder putting up the lights.
Mukilteo Fire Chief Christopher Alexander said potential dangers naturally increase during the holidays.
“There is an increased risk this time of year,” Alexander said. “It’s just the general chaos and hubbub that can lead to trouble.”
Besides that stove fire in early November, Mukilteo has so far escaped any residential fires this season.
But nationally, statistics suggest fire and other dangers increase this time of year not just because of the holidays, but also the colder winter weather that prompts us to spend more time indoors, staying warm.
The National Fire Protection Association, a nonprofit codes and standards organization, reports that 30 percent of all home fires and 38 percent of home fire deaths occur during the months of December, January and February.
Holiday decoration and Christmas tree fires, in particular, are substantially more damaging than other fires, NFPA reports. They result in twice as many injuries and five times the fatalities as the average winter holiday home fire.
Part of the danger occurs when residents let the Christmas tree go dry; it can completely ignite in less than a minute much more quickly than a well-watered tree.
Decorations especially candles can be another danger. NFPA found that candles started 38 percent of home decoration fires, with the top three days for home candle fires being Christmas, New Year’s Day and Christmas Eve.
Holiday cooking is another culprit, with home cooking fires peaking on Thanksgiving, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.
NFPA said that cooking equipment was involved in 18 percent of home decoration fires, such as when a decoration is left on or too close to a stove or other cooking equipment.
Not surprisingly, here in the Great Northwest where fireworks are readily available, 10 percent of fireworks fires occur during the period from Dec. 30 through Jan. 3, with the peak on New Year’s Day.
Chief Alexander reminds residents that heaters and fireplaces can be dangerous, too, when heaters aren’t regularly maintained and flues aren’t regularly cleaned.
The holidays bring dangers other than fires, too. Injuries from falls are common this time of year. Who knew we were so clumsy?
Emergency room doctors treat nearly 6,000 people annually for injuries sustained from falls involving holiday decorations. Another 4,000 are treated for injuries associated with extension cords, often just tripping over them, causing fractures, lacerations, contusions and sprains.
Want to minimize your risks? Slow down. Take a breath.
Chief Alexander advised: “No matter what your holiday plans are, be careful, be safe, and when you’re traveling, know your limits.”