The holidays are a time of feasting, decorating and sharing a hearth's warmth with friends and family. Unfortunately, these are also times of house fires and accidents, Payson Fire Chief Marty deMasi said.
DeMasi recommends that residents take the time to do some basic maintenance now that could go a long way to prevent fire.
"It's that time when folks will be firing up their wood stoves and fireplaces," deMasi said. "Make sure you have had your chimney cleaned and if you are not sure of the condition, have it inspected. The same goes for gas or electric furnaces -- they should be looked at periodically to make sure it's in good condition."
Chimney fires start with accumulations of creosote from burning wood, deMasi said.
"It will make a deposit inside the chimney over a period of time," he said. "How much creosote builds up depends on how often you use your fireplace and what kind of wood you use -- also how you burn the wood because a more smoldering fire will develop more creosote than a free-burning fire."
DeMasi said soft woods tend to build up more creosote than hard woods.
"If you use your fireplace or woodstove a lot, get it cleaned once a month," deMasi said.
Pay attention to where you keep your wood as well, deMasi said.
"Store your fire wood away from the house and if you are bringing wood in the house, make sure it is away from the stove," deMasi said. "Any combustibles should be at least three feet away from a woodstove or a fireplace."
"Propane has no odor so they add a substance to it to make it stink so you will notice it if there is a leak," deMasi said. "If you smell gas, evacuate the premise and call the fire department -- definitely don't light a match looking for it. People laugh, but it does happen."
DeMasi said a carbon monoxide detector is also a good idea.
"Don't forget to check the batteries on all your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and make sure they are in working order," he said.
"Cleanliness is next to Godliness," deMasi said. "A lot of those problems can be prevented by good housekeeping, so keeping your stove and oven clean will prevent most of the problems."
If you have a grease fire, do not throw water on it, deMasi said.
"That will make it flare up," he said. "If there is a pan with grease in it that has caught fire, don't try to pick it up and take it outside. We had a fellow that tried to do that and he spilled the flaming grease on himself and was badly burned."
DeMasi said the easiest way to snuff out a grease fire is to put a lid on the pan. If you don't have a lid, use a fire extinguisher or baking soda.
"If there is a fire in the stove, turn it off and close the door," he said. "If you have an extinguisher handy, use that. If not, call us and get out of the house."
DeMasi said to check fire extinguishers once a year, and if they've been used, service or throw them out.
"If you have a live Christmas tree, make sure it's watered and not placed too close to heat-producing appliances or fireplaces," deMasi said. "If you put lights on it, make sure they are in good repair and that they are rated for that purpose."
Using staples or tacks to mount lights can be dangerous if the insulation or wires are damaged, deMasi said.
"Make sure lights are rated for outdoors," he said. "If you have outdoor lights rated for indoor use, they won't hold up and it could cause a fire because they are not meant to get wet or be exposed to the elements."
The fire code mandates that Christmas lights be up for no more than 90 days, deMasi added.
One final tip for everyone: have a plan, said deMasi.
"Always have your escape route planned," he said, "so if it doesn't go as you hoped, you can get out alive."
For more information, call the Payson Fire Department at (928) 474-5242, ext. 3.