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Keyword: christmas tree fire

Program Will Provide 20,000 Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms for Homes

The Baltimore County Fire Department (BCoFD) recently received its most significant federal fire safety grant in years -- a $589,000 award that will be used to establish a smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarm educational program. Fire officials expect to launch the program – still in the planning stage – early in 2018. The County Council accepted the grant, issued under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Fire Prevention and Safety program, earlier this month.

“This grant is going to help us save lives,” said County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. “So many fire and carbon monoxide tragedies are preventable with working alarms, yet there are communities in Baltimore County where many homes still don’t have them.”

Under the terms of the grant, the County must contribute five percent of the grant award, or $29,452. BCoFD has begun the process of purchasing 20,000 smoke and CO alarms for installation in homes that meet the program criteria. The program will target neighborhoods at higher risk from fire and CO-related incidents.

Fire Chief Kyrle W. Preis III said fire personnel from every career station will assess their districts to identify areas in need of targeted fire and CO safety education. Residents will be able to request individual walk-through inspections and smoke/CO alarm installation through an online request form on the County website.

Once the program is underway, targeted communities can expect to see fire personnel periodically canvassing neighborhoods, providing educational information, evaluating properties for safety recommendations and performing walk-through evaluations for residents who request them. Volunteer stations will be invited to assist with these events.

Educational materials distributed as part of this program will be provided in multiple languages, thus meeting the needs of all our constituents. In addition to funding for the smoke and CO alarms, this grant also will support the purchase of alarms for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Winter and Holiday Fire Safety

The heart of the winter season, Preis said, is the right time to make sure alarms are in working order and properly placed. The risk of residential fires is greatest during the winter months due to heating, holiday decorations, winter storms and candles. Chief Preis stressed that the new program does not mitigate residents’ responsibility to make sure their homes are properly equipped with working smoke and CO alarms.

Here are some of the biggest concerns:

Candles - The top four days for home candles fires are New Year’s Day, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Christmas Eve. Never leave candles unattended. Use sturdy candle holders, preferably ones like a “hurricane” type holder that shield the candle. Keep candles away from flammable items like wrapping paper, curtains and greenery. Consider battery-powered candles.

Live Christmas trees - Christmas tree fires are rare, but when they do occur they are devastating because a dry tree provides so much fuel for fire; such fires often spread so quickly that it’s impossible for people to escape. The fatality rate for Christmas tree fires is far higher than for other home fires. In 2014, a horrific fire involving a dry, 15-foot Frasier fir in an Annapolis home claimed the lives of a couple and their four grandchildren.

Keeping the tree watered is the key to safety. A dry tree is extremely flammable. If your tree’s needles are dry, brittle and dropping to the ground, it’s time for the tree to go.

Electrical fires - One of the most common causes of home fires at any time of year, electrical fires are most commonly caused by overloaded outlets and extension cords and electrical malfunction. During the holidays, overuse of extension cords is a real problem. Minimize the use of extension cords, and do not run cords under carpets. Always follow all manufacturer’s recommendations when using any electrical appliance.

Revised October 16, 2020               
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