Fire Safety

Fire Department offers safety tips for the holiday season

by Jonathan Farrell

Tomie Ann Kato and Darrell Stone, inspectors with the SF Fire Department’s Bureau of Fire Prevention and Investigation, provided a presentation at the Sunset Heights Association of Responsible People’s (SHARP) monthly meeting on Oct. 29.

“Tomie and fellow fire inspector Darrell Stone gave a 90-minute talk, with a question and answer session, on home fire safety,” said SHARP President Dennis Minnick.

“Starting with a PowerPoint presentation, Kato and Stone covered a lot of info.,” he said. “They talked about home escape planning; the use and maintenance of smoke and carbon monoxide detector alarms; the most common cause of fires at home and how to prevent them; how to use fire extinguishers; and how to shelter in place as a last resort if unable to escape a fire.

firefighting copy

 Sofia Perel, a member of SHARP’s board of directors, practices aiming a fire extinguisher at a computer-generated fire. Giving fire safety tips are SF Fire
Department inspectors Tomie Ann Kato and Darrell Stone. Photo: Dennis Minnick.

Minnick said members of the community group found the information very important. The presentation ended with a hands-on demonstration using a fire extinguisher. The group was safe, however, because that Monday night’s demonstration fire at the SHARP meeting house was all electronic.

As the holiday season gets into full swing, the use of lights and decorations is universal to just about everyone. Whether going all out or to display a simple string of lights, people need to take cautionary steps to avoid fire danger, according to Capt. Alec Balmy, a community outreach team leader for the SF Fire Department.

Recommended are:

• Use lights that have current independent laboratory certifications, such as the UL safety seal. Make sure the lights are only used as intended. For example, outdoor lights are to be used outdoors while indoor lights are for indoor use only;

• Replace any decorative lights or string of lights that has loose, broken or malfunctioning bulbs. Avoid using electrical lights with frayed or damaged cords. If a cord or electrical device gets very warm or heats up, especially very quickly, replace it;

• Make sure the voltage of the lights being used are in accordance with their use. Mismatching is dangerous;

• Use clips and hooks specifically designed to hang lights. Avoid nails, staples or any sharp objects, materials or surfaces that could damage the cord;

• Don’t cord crowd! Power strips, extension cords and other related accessories are a convenience but have a limited capacity. Overloading an electrical outlet is dangerous;

• Don’t connect plugs “back to back” as plugging one power strip or extension cord into another increases the chances of Fire Department offers safety tips for the holiday season fire danger. Never cover a power strip or extension cord, such as placing a rug on top of it. Keep it out of the way of foot traffic, heat sources and any water or areas where liquids might spill;

• Avoid connecting multiple strands of lights together. This too can cause hazards by overloading. Overloading extension cords and power strips is one of the most common causes of fire in the home. Use one power strip or extension cord per electrical outlet. Do not connect more than three strands of mini lights at a time and avoid using screw-in bulbs of more than 50 on a strand of lights;

• Place your holiday tree away from heat sources, such as heaters, stoves, furnaces and fireplaces;

• Avoid lighting candles and burning branches, leaves or logs. This is especially critical now that air quality since the wildfires has been unhealthy. Keep in mind a lit candle, no matter how small or pretty, is an open flame. An unattended candle is especially dangerous when children or pets are in the house. Use simulated battery-operated votive and tea light candles;

• As a safety precaution, turn off all lights when leaving home or going to sleep;

• Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors regularly to make sure they are in working order;

• Have electrical outlets and systems checked by a licensed and bonded electrician.

According to the fire experts, following these basic rules and guidelines will help ensure everyone enjoys a bright, well-lit and safe holiday season.

To learn more about fire safety during the holiday season, visit the SF Fire Department’s website at:

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