Fire Safe Tips for Home Owners

Fire Safe Tips for Home Owners 
Fireman in front of burning house

Winter can be a busy time for Southern Oregon Fire Departments, even though official Fire Season is past. Below are several items that can be fire hazards and cause problems. Fire is a very sensitive subject in Jackson County and all other Southern Oregon towns and counties.  Below are several items that can be fire hazards and cause problems.

  1. Don’t leave the pot cooking unattended on the stove.  cooking is a leading cause of home fires, especially during the holidays when people are more likely to be cooking large holiday meals and have family and other guests. It's very important to stay put in the kitchen. Set a timer, carry it with you and pay attention to it. If you have to leave the kitchen for longer than a moment (timer in your pocket) turn off the stove or oven to avoid starting a fire.
  2. We all love Christmas trees, it’s a well loved holiday tradition. but they can also be a fire hazard. It's essential to keep Christmas trees at least three feet away from any heat sources, especially  fireplaces and heaters. Decorations should be checked for frayed or damaged wires, as these can cause an electrical fire. Watch out for the cat too! Don’t leave them alone with the tree. All Christmas lights, should be have been tested and approved for safety.
  3. Yes, it’s cold and Space heaters are a popular way to keep it warmer during the winter months, but they can also be dangerous if not used correctly. You really need to plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet, or use a special extension cord for heaters. Also  space heaters should be at least three feet away from anything flammable, such as curtains or furniture. Look for heaters with safety features such as thermal shut-offs and tip-over switches, which will automatically turn off the heater if it overheats or tips over. (Especially useful for people with small pets)
  4. Wood-burning fireplaces are a wonderful addition to any home, but they require regular maintenance to ensure they are safe to use. (In Southern Oregon they should be certified) Creosote buildup is a common cause of chimney fires, so you need  to have the fireplace cleaned and inspected regularly by a pro. Ashes should be disposed of in non-flammable metal containers and kept away from anything that could catch fire. You think they are out but…
  5. If you smoke you need to be extra careful. Use sturdy ashtrays filled with sand or water, which will prevent cigarettes from igniting anything nearby. Don’t have your Barbecues near wood siding and other flammable materials. Make extra sure that cigarettes and other smoking materials are completely extinguished before thowing them out.
  6. Lithium-ion batteries are commonly used in electronics, but they can also be a fire hazard if not stored correctly. Store the batteries away from anything flammable and never expose them to extreme heat or cold. If a battery becomes damaged or swollen,  throw it out immediately. Keep fire extinguishers on hand in case of a battery-related fire or other fire.
  7. Smoke detectors are absolutely essential to keep you safe. . Install smoke detectors in every bedroom, outside every sleeping area, and on every level of the home. Test smoke detectors monthly and replace batteries at least once a year. Carbon Monoxide detectors are also essential for all Southern Oregon Homes. In addition to smoke detectors, it's essential to have a fire escape plan in place and to practice it regularly with your family. Are you in a two story home? What are you going to do?
  8. Extension cords are especially used during the holiday season for Christmas lights and other decorations. But they can be a fire hazard if you don’t use them correctly. Inadequate power through an extension cord can cause it to overheat and start a fire. Never use frayed cords. Replace immediately. Don’t run them under carpets where you walk on them or use them near water, which can also be a fire hazard.


There are lots of other things you can do to prevent fires but these are good starting points.  You don’t want to have a  home fire any time but especially not over the holidays.  Some simple precautions – stay in the kitchen when cooking. Be careful where you put your Christmas tree. Watch out using your space heaters (buy ones with safety features) Get your wood stove or fireplace cleaned and checked, preferably before winter when most of them are busy. Be careful with ashes from the fireplace or from smoking. Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Be extra careful  storing lithium-ion batteries safely, watch out for and check you extension cords. Be safe Southern Oregon!

** Some of the info in the article is taken from a interview with Deputy Fire Marshall Samanthat Metheny who is with the City of Medford in Jackson County, Oregon  Full interview and transcript 

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