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  • Jefferson Weaver

Keep Season Warm, Bright and Safe, Fire Marshal Says

The Christmas season and cold weather are always busy times for firefighters, and this year is no exception.

Columbus County Emergency Services responded to five structure fires in eight days as of Friday. Two of those fires were on the same day, according to a social media post.

Columbus County Fire Marshal Shannon Blackman said live Christmas trees should be kept watered daily to keep the tree hydrated and less flammable.

“When you get the tree home,” he said, “cut off the bottom two inches of the trunk. This creates a fresh cut for the tree to draw water.”

Only lights in good working condition should be used on either live or artificial trees, he said.

“Replace worn or broken cords, or those with loose connections,” he said. “Some lights are designed for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.”

Damaged cords are a major safety hazard, Blackman said.

“Cords should never be pinched by furniture, under rugs or near heat sources. Don’t use nails or staples to attach cords.”

Gang plugs should also be avoided, Blackman said.

“You can buy some of these at discount stores, and they look like a surge protector,” he explained. “They’re not. They’re just an extension cord with more outlets, and they’re very easy to overload. And never plug a heater into an extension cord of any kind.”

Heating systems should be checked by a reputable professional before being turned on for the first time each year, the fire marshal said. Improper heater usage causes multiple fire fatalities every year.

“Keep anything that can burn at least three feet from any heating equipment,” he said. “Whether it’s a furnace, a woodstove, a fireplace or a portable space heater, it needs to be a safe distance from anything that can catch fire.”

A three-foot “kid free zone” should also be maintained around heaters to prevent children from being burned or injured.

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are simple lifesaving devices that are inexpensive, Blackman said.

Carbon monoxide is a silent, odorless killer,” he said. “Even if your heating system is outside, it’s smart to have a detector indoors.

“You should test your smoke alarm at least once a month, and change the batteries on a regular basis,” he said. “Some detectors now have longlife batteries that can last ten years.”

For more safety tips, or for assistance with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, contact the Columbus County Emergency Services office or your local fire department.

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