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Okanagan fire departments hoping for sparkle, not sparks this holiday season

Be ‘firesmart’ this holiday season.

That’s the message local fire departments are urging as they hope Christmas is filled with sparkle and not electrical sparks or fire.

According to a federal website, nearly 800 fires between 1999 and 2008 were caused by candles — most often during holidays and special occasions. During that period, each year had an average of eight deaths and 115 injuries.

“Don’t forget about safety during the flurry of activities that lead up to the holiday season,” said Paul Johnson, fire prevention officer with the Kelowna Fire Dept.

“Many of the fires we deal with during the holidays are avoidable and we can reduce the risk of these fires by following simple safety tips. These simple reminders can make a big difference in ensuring a safe holiday season.”

One of those tips, says Osoyoos Fire Rescue, is ensuring candles are placed at least one foot away from flammable materials, and snuff them out when leaving home or going to bed.

Some tips from local fire departments are below.

  • Ensure smoke alarms are operational
  • Keep candles out of reach of children and pets
  • Keep a watchful eye on items being cooked
  • Have a lid nearby to smother pan fires
  • Use non-candle or LED candles for décor items
  • If you use real candles, ensure the flame never exceeds the rim
  • For Christmas trees, use an artificial, non-combustible tree
  • For real trees, ensure it’s fresh with green needles that do not fall off when touched
  • Water the tree daily.
  • Place the tree at least three feet away from heat sources
  • Only use lights that have a “CAN” or “ULC” stamp
  • Replace light strings with worn or broken cords
  • Never exceed the maximum number of strand connections.
  • Never use lit candles for decorations
  • Always turn off tree lights before leaving or going to bed
  • Get rid of dried-out trees immediately

The fire department says it’s also noticed an increase in fireworks during the holiday season, especially on New Year’s Eve.

In some Okanagan locations, like Kelowna, fireworks are banned year-round.

“The last thing police, bylaw or fire department officials want to do is issue tickets for fireworks violations on New Year’s Eve,” said Johnson. “We want everyone to have a safe festive season, we don’t want to be the New Year’s Grinch.”

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