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Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service - Preventing, Protecting, Responding

Accidental Fires a Festive Risk

Moorlands firefighters are urging the public to be safe and secure this Christmas in the wake of shock figures which reveal 3,300 people lost their lives in accidental house fires during the festive season in 2008.

Ongoing campaigns such as Fire Kills and Don’t Drown in Toxic Smoke highlight the potential hazards and threats in the home, particularly at this time of year when Christmas trees, lights, candles and electrics present an additional fire risk.

"The reality is that just two to three breaths of smoke in a fire can render a person unconscious."

Tim Hyde, Area Commander, Moorlands

Area Commander Tim Hyde, based at Leek Fire Station, said: "The risk of fire in the home is an all year round issue but people are particularly vulnerable at Christmas for many reasons.

"This ranges from unsafe electrical decorations and unattended candles through to cooking while drunk.

"People also vastly underestimate the deadly strength of toxic smoke and overestimate how long they have to escape should a fire break out.

"The reality is that just two to three breaths of smoke in a fire can render a person unconscious.

"Christmas should be a time for celebration rather than tragedy and for this reason I’m urging people to be fire aware and stay fire safe."

Latest figures from the Fire Kills campaign show in 2008 there were 33,000 accidental house fires, with ten per cent of these taking place in the run up to Christmas Day.

Crews from Leek are now planning a series of community events to raise awareness of festive fire risks and dangers.

In partnership with police and other agencies, firefighters will be outside the Britannia Building Society headquarters on Cheadle Road between 11.30am and 2.30pm tomorrow, December 10th and next Wednesday, December 16th.

They will be talking to members of the public, offering advice and information on all aspects of fire safety and road safety.

On Tuesday December 15th crews will be doing the same outside Staffordshire Moorlands District Council offices from 11am to 2pm.

Actress Jill Halfpenny is supporting the Don’t Drown in Toxic smoke campaign.

She said: "As a mum I am very conscious of trying to keep my home as safe as possible to reduce the risks from fire.

 "The fact is that fires can and do happen so it’s important to check your smoke alarm weekly and to be aware of the dangers. Ignorance is definitely not bliss when it comes to keeping your family safe."

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue tips for a safe and happy Christmas.

Ensure you have a working smoke alarm installed on all levels of your home. Test your smoke alarms weekly and never remove batteries to power presents!

Never leave cooking unattended and avoid cooking whilst drunk. The majority of fires start in the kitchen so this is a high risk area. Always turn off kitchen appliances when you have finished cooking.

Never leave candles unattended. Keep decorations, cards and wrapping paper away from candles, fires, lights and heaters.

Ensure you switch off fairy lights and unplug them before you go to bed, or leave the house.

Check your Christmas tree lights conform to the British Standard (BS EN 60598).

Always use an RCD (residual current device) on outdoor electrical equipment (a safety device that can save lives by instantly switching off the power if there is a fault).

Don’t overload sockets – ensure only one plug per socket. Always turn off plugs when they are not in use, except those that are designed to be left on, like freezers.

Make sure cigarettes are extinguished properly and never smoke in bed. Put it out, right out.

Check on older relatives and neighbours this Christmas, as they are at greater risk from fire.

Ask the experts – Fire and Rescue Services in England offer free home fire risk checks to identify potential fire risks and advise what to do to reduce or prevent them. This may even include the free installation of a smoke alarm – the ideal gift for keeping your family safe.

And finally, in the event of fire: get out, stay out and call 999.