John Dickie: Beware of Christmas fire risk

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Sadly every festive season firefighters are called to tackle fires in the home. The risks can be higher with more celebrations at home, higher intake of alcohol and potentially flammable hazards from Christmas tree lights to piles of presents.

Christmas trees, decorations, lights, roaring fires and candles are just some of the winter and Christmas essentials that can spark tragedy if they aren’t monitored carefully and precautions aren’t taken.

Alarming statistics show that more people die in house fires across Scotland over the Christmas period than at any other time of year.

While the festive season is a time for celebration and gathering together with family and friends we would like to raise awareness of the hidden dangers in the home over Christmas.

Extra caution is also needed with natural Christmas trees particularly if surrounded by lights or nearby candles, as these trees are very dry and highly flammable.

It couldn’t be easier to do something so simple to protect your family and your home. We offer free home fire safety visits where firefighters visit you when it’s convenient to you and provide free smoke alarms where required.

The festive period is traditionally marked by a high incidence of domestic fires because houses contain more combustible materials than usual, whether it be trees, wrapping paper, candles or decorative lights.

Alcohol has a part to play in so many fires, often combined with careless disposal of cigarettes or leaving cooking unattended to make the perfect recipe for an inferno. It’s not our place to suggest people cut down on what they’re drinking at Christmas or don’t smoke, all we are asking is that you take a second to think – if you’ve had a few too many don’t head to the cooker for an evening snack.

If you smoke then go outside as it’s all too easy to settle in your cosy ­armchair and nod off with a cigarette in hand. Make sure cigarettes are properly extinguished.

If you have guests staying with you make sure they know your escape plan. If you do find yourself trapped, get into a room together preferably with a phone, open the window wide and dial 999 for the Fire and Rescue Service.

After a fire, people often say they never thought it would happen to them, but why not? Fires happen to ordinary people often when they least expect it. It’s a terrifying ordeal to go through, please don’t let it happen to you.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service would like you to have a very happy, safe Christmas and New Year. If you or someone you know is vulnerable or may be at risk from fire please get in touch and arrange a FREE home fire safety visit with local firefighters by calling 0800 0731 999 or visit www.firescotland.gov.uk

A wide range of tips on how to keep yourself and your home safe from fire are available on the SFRS website: www.firescotland.gov.uk/winter

John Dickie is senior officer for the City of Edinburgh, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service