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Distraction can lead to tragedy with holiday cooking, candles, reminds Greater Victoria fire department

Fire departments ready for potential uptick in gatherings this winter
Fresh cut Christmas trees need to be watered daily to prevent being a fire safety hazard. (Black Press Media file photo)

Distraction and decor are key concerns for fire departments as they prepare for a potential uptick in family and group gatherings this winter.

“You have to be a little more aware over the holiday season,” said fire prevention officer Rob Kivell of the Oak Bay Fire Department.

Kitchen duty remains a duty, even as guests visit which can create unattended cooking – a serious fire risk.

“A lot of times people are juggling and doing a few things at once,” Kivell said.

The biggest concern is candles, which are too often forgotten Kivell said.

They should be in proper holders, away from combustibles and never left unattended. Such as holiday lights strings, they should be out when the house is empty.

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Test alarms, and tell guests about the household’s fire safety plan, Kivell suggested. Kids visiting? Don’t forget to keep fire-starting materials out of reach.

Similarly, smoking materials – a declining issue but one that remains – need deep ashtrays, matches and lighters out of reach of youngsters, and butts or tobacco doused when done.

“Be really aware of hot objects in your house,” Kivell said.

That includes placing a tree or other holiday decor, near vents, outlets or other heat sources.

As artificial Christmas trees take over and cut live trees wane, they’re less of an issue, but firefighters remind residents to take care to water trees daily and ensure they’re healthy.

Usual reminders also include recycling worn or broken cords and strings of lights and using only approved lights.

Oak Bay firefighters host a tree recycling fundraiser on Jan. 1 and 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the fire hall. Funds raised benefit the Oak Bay Firefighters Charitable Foundation for its Oak Bay High bursary program.

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