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Christmas trees, candles and cooking can burn kids, Shriners says

Here's how fast a Christmas tree can go up in flames and torch a home

The Sacramento Fire Department conducted a demonstration on how fast a dry Christmas tree can turn into a torch inside home. The video illustrates how important it is to keep a tree watered and away from heat sources such as a space heater. Firefi
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The Sacramento Fire Department conducted a demonstration on how fast a dry Christmas tree can turn into a torch inside home. The video illustrates how important it is to keep a tree watered and away from heat sources such as a space heater. Firefi

Christmas tree lights, candles and cooking pose hazards during the holidays, but an independent survey commissioned by Shriners Hospitals for Children found that many people do not follow key fire and burn safety tips during what can be a particularly dangerous time of year.

The burn team at Shriners Hospitals for Children-Northern California, urges families to be “burn aware” to ensure a safe and happy holiday season.

“Our experience treating burn patients has shown us that most families are aware of the risk of burn injuries and the importance of prevention,” Dr. David Greenhalgh, chief of burns as the Shriners Hospital in Sacramento, said in a written statement. “But those safety and prevention habits are not always automatic. Unfortunately, we often see more burn injuries over the Christmas and New Year holiday season.”

The national survey, conducted as part of the Shriners Hospitals for Children’s annual Be Burn Aware campaign, polled adults across the United States on their fire safety knowledge and practices. Although overall awareness was high,the survey revealed several gaps, according to a news release. The largest gap was associated with live Christmas trees, one of the most dangerous fire hazards in homes this time of year. More than half of those surveyed said they do not water trees daily, even though nearly three-quarters of respondents were aware of the recommended practice.

Candle and cooking accidents account for a large portion of house fires and injuries, but the study found Americans are not taking steps to keep their homes safe. One-quarter of those surveyed said they leave lighted candles unattended, and slightly more leave them in reach of children. The survey also found that two of the simplest prevention tips often are not followed in the kitchen – turning pot handles to the back of the stove and keeping a cookie sheet nearby to extinguish a fire.

To help ensure a safe holiday season, Shriners Hospitals for Children urges families to:

  • Water Christmas trees daily. If decorating a real tree, purchase a fresh one with needles intact. Make a fresh cut at the base of the trunk before placing it in a stand with water.
  • Locate trees away from fireplaces, candles, heaters and other heat sources.
  • Check holiday lights and replace strings that are kinked or frayed.
  • Place candles in safe spots, out of reach of children and away from decorated greens, paper and other flammable objects. Never leave lighted candles unattended.
  • Screen the fireplace to prevent sparks from landing on carpet and children from getting too close to the flames. Never burn wrapping paper in the fireplace.
  • Practice safety in the kitchen. Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy

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