Christmas is a time of wonder, but it can be costly if safety is ignored.  A recent tragedy in Connecticut reminds us of the many things we must be cautious about when using a fireplace.  Two fatal mistakes may have cost the lives of the three little girls and their grandparents who died Christmas morning when a century-old Victorian mansion went up in flames and turned into a death trap.  This report is from the New York Post.

Fire marshals in Stamford, Conn., said the homeowner’s boyfriend, contractor Michael Borcino, put still-smoldering embers from a yule log into some kind of a bag — and then left it leaning against an outside rear wall of the $1.7 million house.  Marshals said the embers had not been doused with water.  On the other side of the wall was a mud room.  When the wall caught fire between 3 and 3:30 a.m., the five people sleeping on the second and third floors had no warning — because there were no functioning smoke detectors.

City official Ernie Orgera said a modern “hardwired” smoke detection system was being installed as part of ongoing renovations. But it hadn’t gone online in the five-bedroom home, which was built in 1895. And there was no evidence that battery-operated detectors had been in use.  The home’s owner, Madonna Badger, and her boyfriend, Michael Borcino, were the only survivors of the fire, despite making every effort to save her children and parents.

Another cause of home fires during this season are Christmas tree fires.  Many persons enjoy keeping their decorations up until after New Year’s Day.  The National Fire Prevention Association recommends getting rid of the tree when it is dry.  They should not be kept in the home, garage, or around the house once they become dry.

The NFPA also suggests the following ideas to reduce the risk of holiday light fires and keep equipment in good condition for next year:

  • To unplug electric decorations, use the gripping area provided on the plugs. Never pull the cord to unplug a device from electrical outlets. Doing so can harm the cord’s wire and insulation and even lead to an electrical shock or fire.
  • As you’re putting away electrical light strings, inspect each for damage. Throw out light sets if they have loose connections, broken sockets or cracked or bare wires.
  • Do not place a damaged set of lights back into the storage box for next year’s use.
  • Wrap each set of lights and put them in individual plastic bags, or wrap the lights around a piece of cardboard.
  • Store electrical decorations in a dry place where they cannot be damaged by water or dampness. Also, keep them away from children and pets.

Please check your smoke detectors and replace the batteries if necessary!  It’s going to be a long winter.  Take all the safety precautions regarding fireplaces seriously.  Dispose of ashes properly, and wet them down, away from the house.  Do not leave a fire burning in the fireplace when you go to bed.  Practice fireplace and candle safety and other ways to prevent fires.  It only takes one spark to cause devestation.