the State Fire Marshal’s Office. All this can be pretty redundant over the years, so let me put a more
personal perspective on this.
I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, as did so many who are now parents and grandparents to a much different generation. The days when the holiday season was a mix of family get-togethers and visiting people’s homes for parties which usually meant consuming allot of alcohol then driving home.
For the most part those days are in the past and for good reason, since the out comes from most events never ended well. The point I am trying to make, holidays are different than they used to be. Are they safer? I’m not sure I can say that, since fires we had in the past are the same types we are still fighting. So we can see that we have learned some lessons but not all of them.
Back in the day, holiday parties consisted of a room filled with cigarette smoke, candles lit all around, along with alcohol beverages being handed out like candy on Halloween. That was the norm and what we all grew up with, but with the studies done on drinking and driving and the link between smoking and cancer, we had advent of stricter DUI laws and packaging warnings and public education about smoking’s risks. The science led us to a more informed generation and positive changes occurred, but the problem with fires during the holidays still exist.
Candles still are a number one cause of holiday fires but what has changed? Candles have safety precautions built in to put themselves out when they burn too low, most have a better base to stand on there are even electric candles, so why are we still having fires from candles? No matter how fire safe you make a product, the users (you and me) have to take responsibility to use them safely. Candles are a great example. If you put them too close to a couch or curtain it is still going to catch fire. If you have pets and small children in the house, they can still tip the candle over and start a fire.
Let us not forget that there is a new “danger” that did not exist before. Our smartphones, which are very useful but when loaded with email and social media apps that constantly interrupt our thoughts during the day it means your mind is not focused on where it should be such always, including thoughts about fire safety. Kitchen fires still exist with the majority of calls related to unattended cooking. People’s lives are busier they are much more on the move.
The days when your kids had baseball practice once a week are gone. Now our children’s events and sports have a much higher time investment expectation with sports events every night of the week and games on weekends. Then you try to fit in a gathering, including decorating, shopping and preparation with all your normal activities?
What I am really trying to tell all of you, is simply take time to concentrate on what you are doing. Put down the phone, tablet, etc. and think about what would happen if I forgot the turkey, ham, pizza in the oven to long. What would happen if I forgot to blow out that candle and did I put it to close to the curtains? What about that extension cords I plugged in to another three extension cords overheating because I was too exhausted to buy a proper extension cord with a UL listing and breaker long enough to service what I am plugging in. Word to the wise; stay alert to fire hazards.
Think about all the synthetic materials in your home: televisions, carpets, counters, and furniture that are made from petroleum based products which burn hotter and faster than in years past.
Holiday season is the busiest time of the year for our department. Many of you will be home more, cooking more, not to mention putting up decorations. It is easy to get distracted and a moment’s neglect or oversight can cause a situation that can cause property damage at the least and at the worst a death.
Please slow down, enjoy the holidays and be present in the moment.
I would also like to mention that it is time for the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign. When shopping you may run into the West Fargo Fire Department personnel ringing the bell to raise funds for this worthwhile charity.
Please consider donating and stopping to say hi. From all of us, to all of you, please have a fire safe season and we will see you in the New Year.