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How To Prevent Home Fires

It was a large, noisy family gathering. The college students were back from school, and a crackling fireplace and lighted candles added to the festivities. Leslie looked forward to some home cooking, and catching up on everyone's activities. She picked up a paper plate, held a paper napkin under the plate, and eyed the goodies. However, she didn't keep an eye on the candle, which ignited the napkin when she reached for some food.

Fortunately, Carole was on the other side of the dining room table and saw what was happening. She snatched the napkin from Leslie's hand and extinguished the flames. About 3,000 people die annually in home fires.

Annual "Fire Prevention Week" is held in the Sunday through Saturday containing October 9th. That is the date of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and it serves as a somber reminder of the perils of fire, whether caused by a smelly cow or a scented candle. Waxing Eloquent On Candles From kids to college students to grandparents, candles are the rage. Unfortunately, they cause thousands of fires each year.

The National Fire Protection Association offers these warnings when using candles. * Keep candles away from all combustible items and flammable liquids. * Place candles in sturdy, noncombustible holders that won't tip over and are big enough to collect dripping wax.

* Don't place lighted candles in windows. Blinds or curtains can be inadvertently closed over them. * Never leave a child unattended in a room with a lighted candle, or place a candle where children or pets could knock it over. * Extinguish all candles when you leave the room or go to sleep. * Do not use water to extinguish a candle. The wax can splatter, or the flame could flare.

* Use battery-powered lights in a power outage. Keep extra batteries and bulbs on hand. Hot Advice Smoking is the leading cause of fatalities due to fires in the U.S.

, with more than 800 deaths annually. * Do not smoke when medicated or sleepy, after consuming alcoholic beverages, and never in bed. * Use deep, nontip ashtrays and empty them frequently. Douse the ashes with water, or flush them down the toilet. * Check in and around upholstery cushions for smoldering butts before leaving home or going to sleep. More fatal smoking fires begin in family rooms or living rooms, not in bedrooms.

* When you have guests who smoke, provide plenty of ashtrays. Empty wastebaskets and lift cushions and feel around in furniture crevices after they leave. Some More Precautions Playing with matches and lighters is the leading cause of fire deaths for children under age six. * Teach children to respect fire as a tool, not a toy. If they play with matches or lighters and don't respond to your efforts to redirect their interests, seek professional counseling. * Keep matches and lighters out of sight and reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet.

Teach children to bring them to an adult if they find them. * Use only child-resistant lighters. * Never let children use matches or lighters. * Keep halogen lamps away from furnishings, draperies, high traffic areas, children and pets. Only use lamps with a metal grate and a thermal protector. Use bulbs of 300 watts or less.

* When drying clothes, hang them a safe distance from stoves, heaters and other sources of fire. * Keep the clothes dryer free of lint. Vacuum the interior lint pathway and duct at least once a year. Consumer Reports recommends the use of metal ducts.

* Keep storage areas neat. Get rid of newspapers, rubbish, old clothes, oily rags and damp waste.

John Myre is the author of the award-winning book, Live Safely in a Dangerous World, and the publisher of the Safety Times Reproducible Articles..

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