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Editorial: Don’t ignore fire safety

Fire respects no one.
That fact has played out with destructive ferocity over the past week. Victims include a retired minister and his wife who died in their Salisbury home last Thursday. In fires elsewhere, three people died in a vacant house in Columbus, Ohio, on Christmas Eve. Five people ó three children and their grandparents ó died in a Victorian mansion in Stamford, Conn., on Christmas Day.
The faithful, the poor, the wealthy ó all are vulnerable. The entire community mourns when a family suffers such tragic loss.
Firefighters do their best to rescue and protect people from fire, and thank goodness for them. U.S. fire departments responded to fires every 24 seconds in 2010, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Most people just suffer property loss ó a hard hit in itself. But some 2,755 people perished in U.S. house fires in 2010.
No one expects their house to catch on fire. ěHomeî means safety and security. But comfort can lead to complacency when it comes to protecting your home and family from fire.
No. 1 on everyoneís fire-prevention list should be installing smoke alarms and keeping them functional. Sixty-two percent of home fire deaths in 2010 resulted from fires in homes without working smoke alarms ó with the emphasis on ěworking.î They canít do their work if the batteries are dead or the alarm has been de-activated because it went off while you were cooking bacon.
Speaking of bacon, grease and other combustibles, the most common site of home fires is the kitchen, and the top cause is unattended cooking. Christmas celebrations unfortunately heighten the risk of house fires because of overloaded circuits, dried-out greenery and the general air of distraction that makes people less cautious.
With Christmas Day in the past, people may let down their guard in another critical way ó not watering the Christmas tree. Natural trees that go unwatered can go up in flames within seconds, unlike well-watered trees. An online video illustrates this vividly, with a dry tree going up in seconds. (See http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/media/drytreefire/tree3202402web.mov.). It should be mandatory viewing every Christmas.
The U.S. Fire Administration refers to the Christmas holidays as ěA Season for Sharing in Fire Safety.î Thatís not magical or inspirational, but it makes good sense.

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