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Holiday Safety: Fire Safety Tips For The Season

The Most Dangerous Time Of The Year

The holiday season is one of the most dangerous times of the year for household fires, so take note of these tips to reduce your risk. Residential fires during the holiday season are more frequent, more costly, and more deadly than at any other time of the year. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) reports more than double the number of open-flame fires on Christmas Day than on an average day, and about twice as many on New Year’s Day. And when those fires occur, they do more damage: Property loss during a holiday fire is 34% greater than in an average fire, and the number of fatalities per thousand fires is nearly 70% higher. When the source of the fire is a highly flammable Christmas tree, the toll in property and lives is even greater.

To keep your household from becoming a holiday fire statistic, here are some safety tips to follow.

Cooking
Cooking is the top cause of holiday fires, according to the USFA. The most common culprit is food that’s left unattended. It’s easy to get distracted; take a pot holder with you when you leave the kitchen as a reminder that you have something on the stove. Make sure to keep a kitchen fire extinguisher that’s rated for all types of fires, and check that smoke detectors are working.

If you’re planning to deep-fry your holiday turkey, do it outside, on a flat, level surface at least 10 feet from the house.

Candles
The incidence of candle fires is four times higher during December than during other months. According to the National Fire Protection Association, four of the five most dangerous days of the year for residential candle fires are Christmas/Christmas Eve and New Year’s/New Year’s Eve. (The fifth is Halloween.)

To reduce the danger, maintain about a foot of space between the candle and anything that can burn. Set candles on sturdy bases or cover with hurricane globes. Never leave flames unattended. Before bed, walk through each room to make sure candles are blown out. For atmosphere without worry, consider flameless LED candles.

Christmas Trees
It takes less than 30 seconds for a dry tree to engulf a room in flames, according to the Building and Fire Research Laboratory of the National Institute for Standards and Technology. “They make turpentine out of pine trees,” notes Tom Olshanski, spokesman for the U.S. Fire Administration. “A Christmas tree is almost explosive when it goes.”

To minimize risk, buy a fresh tree with intact needles, get a fresh cut on the trunk, and water it every day. A well-watered tree is almost impossible to ignite. Keep the tree away from heat sources, such as a fireplace or radiator, and out of traffic patterns. If you’re using live garlands and other greenery, keep them at least three feet away from heating sources.

No matter how well the tree is watered, it will start to dry out after about four weeks, Olshanski says, so take it down after the holidays. Artificial trees don’t pose much of a fire hazard; just make sure yours is flame-retardant.

Decorative Lights
Inspect light strings, and throw out any with frayed or cracked wires or broken sockets. When decorating, don’t run more than three strings of lights end to end. “Stacking the plugs is much safer when you’re using a large quantity of lights,” explains Brian L. Vogt, director of education for holiday lighting firm Christmas Décor. Extension cords should be in good condition and UL-rated for indoor or outdoor use. Check outdoor receptacles to make sure the ground fault interrupters don’t trip. If they trip repeatedly, Vogt says, that’s a sign that they need to be replaced.

When hanging lights outside, avoid using nails or staples, which can damage the wiring and increase the risk of a fire. Instead, use UL-rated clips or hangers. And take lights down within 90 days, says John Drengenberg, director of consumer safety for Underwriters Laboratories.  “If you leave them up all year round, squirrels chew on them and they get damaged by weather.”

Kids Playing With Matches
The number of blazes—and, tragically, the number of deaths—caused by children playing with fire goes up significantly during the holidays. From January through March, 13% of fire deaths are the result of children playing with fire, the USFA reports; in December, that percentage doubles. So keep matches and lighters out of kids’ reach. “We tend to underestimate the power of these tools,” says Meri-K Appy, president of the nonprofit Home Safety Council. “A match or lighter could be more deadly than a loaded gun in the hands of a small child.”

Fireplaces
Soot can harden on chimney walls as flammable creosote, so before the fireplace season begins, have your chimney inspected to see if it needs cleaning. Screen the fireplace to prevent embers from popping out onto the floor or carpet, and never use flammable liquids to start a fire in the fireplace. Only burn seasoned wood—no wrapping paper.

When cleaning out the fireplace, put embers in a metal container and set them outside to cool for 24 hours before disposal. 

Pat Curry is a former senior editor at BUILDER, the official magazine of the National Association of Home Builders, and a frequent contributor to real estate and home-building publications. (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/holiday-fire-safety-tips/)

Holiday Safety: Thanksgiving Safety Tips

Thanksgiving Safety Tips Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires

MTFD reminds everyone to be careful this holiday season. Thanksgiving is just days away, and as you're planning your menu, you should also plan how to stay safe in the kitchen. Check out our helpful reminders on staying safe in the kitchen!

WASHINGTON —  The makers of deep-fat fryers have a message for ambitious chefs this Thanksgiving: Turkeys don't burn houses down, people do.

As the toward fried — instead of roasted — turkey has grown, so has the concern over the possible dangers of deep-fat fryers.

Allstate Insurance said 15 homes burned to the ground around the country last Thanksgiving as a result of the improper use of turkey fryers. The product-testing company Underwriters Laboratory Inc. refuses to certify as safe any turkey fryer model currently on the market.

In 1999, the last year figures were available, the National Fire Protection Association reported that 500 fires involving a deep-fat fryer took place around the nation, resulting in over $6.8 million dollars in damage.

But defenders say the fryers are as safe as any appliance, if used properly.

"Anything, if you don't follow the directions, can be unsafe," said Johnny McKinion, general manager of Bayou Classic, which manufactures several deep-fat fryers.

"If you don't follow the directions for driving your car or for a chain saw are you going to get hurt? Sure you are," McKinion said. "But if you follow the directions on all of my cookers, they're as safe as anything else."

And, generally speaking, the Maryland State Fire Marshal's office agrees.

"Just like with any other home appliance, the most important piece of equipment that comes with the fryer are the instructions," said Deputy State Fire Marshal W. Faron Taylor.

"When the instructions are followed, the chances of having a fire or burn injury or both are reduced almost 100 percent," Taylor said. "It is when people do not follow the instructions, do not attend to the cooking, don't set equipment up right or in the right location — it is then that we see problems."

But the instructions alone are not enough of a safeguard, say testers at Underwriters Laboratories.

"The numbers (for turkey-fryer fires) are not going down but going up," said Barbara Guthrie, the director of consumer affairs at Underwriters. "At present, we do not believe that there are any sufficient standards that address the safety concerns."

Guthrie said those concerns begin with 5 gallons of scalding 700-degree grease precariously perched over an open flame. And many fryers are unstable — especially the tripod models — which leads to a high incidence of tipping.

When the oil meets the fire, Guthrie said, the fryers instantly become a "vertical flame thrower."

The Underwriters Web site features a video of a turkey fryer filled with hot oil that overflows. When the grease hits the flame, the fryer turns into a volcano of smoke and fire in just seconds.

"We don't believe the taste is worth risking your home, your life or the life of your children," said Guthrie.

Maryland does not keep fryer-specific data, Taylor said. But he noted that cooking fires and kitchen fires are the No. 1 cause of fire in the state, and on days like Thanksgiving when everyone is in the kitchen — or over the fryer — the problems can greatly increase.

If people insist upon frying up a turkey this Thanksgiving, Underwriters suggests that they always fry outside on a flat surface, always tend to the fryer, don't overfill it and make sure the turkey is completely thawed before immersing it.

McKinion said he doubts folks will stop frying turkeys. It has been a tradition in the South for a long time, he said, and his sales in the West and Northeast have increased in recent years. And he thinks people are discovering that the fryer is not just for Thanksgiving anymore.

"They can also deep fry ham, prime rib and pork loin," he said.

Capital News Service contributed to this report.

 

Move to the RIGHT for Sirens & Lights

When our Fire Department is called to an emergency it's important that we respond quickly and safely.

If you're driving down the road and see the lights and sirens of an emergency vehicle in your rearview mirror, MOVE TO THE RIGHT AND STOP to allow emergency vehicles to move easily down the road. You may even want to use your turn signal to indicate your intentions, this will help the emergency vehicles navigate through the safest path.

NEVER slam on the brakes and stop in the middle of the road and do not make any sudden moves. If an emergency vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction, you should also pull over and stop.

Once the emergency vehicles have passed, use your turn signal again to merge back into traffic when it is safe to begin driving.

DO NOT tailgate or follow an emergency vehicle closely. Not only is this illegal, you run the risk of a collision as vehicles pull back out into traffic after the emergency vehicle goes by. You are not required to slow down or pull over for emergency vehicles that are responding in the opposite direction on a divided highway.

Every time fire engines or emergency vehicles are called to an emergency Fire Fighters are giving their all to help others. Do your part as a driver to help Fire Fighters do their job as quickly and safely as possible.

So Remember: Move to the RIGHT for sirens and lights.


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