‘It’s amazing just how much safer it is’: Firefighters and police pass along holiday safety tips

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With the festive season upon us, the last thing anyone wants is an emergency situation ruining the fun, which is why Island safety officials and sending out some holiday safety reminders.

Some of the biggest tips are around Christmas tree safety.

North Saanich firefighters say those who use real trees need to choose one that is healthy and not already dried out.

Firefighter Kurt Barner said there are some tricks residents can use to ensure the tree stays hydrated.

“It’s a great idea when you buy it and bring it home to cut a couple inches off the end, because resin forms and make the tree not absorb water,” Barner said.

He explained it’s important to keep real trees watered because dry trees are a big fire hazard.

Barner referred to some videos posted online by the National Fire Protection Association where they compare how fast both a dry tree and a watered tree catch fire.

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The dry tree ignited in seconds, but it took much longer for the watered tree to burn up.

“It’s amazing just how much safer it is to just make sure you’re checking the water a couple times a week and making sure it’s topped up,” Barner added.

The department said all lights that go on a Christmas tree, or inside the home, need to be labeled for indoor use only and should have the mark of an accredited certification agency such as CSA, cUL or cETL to prove the string has been tested.

Whether it’s a real or fake tree, they need to be set up at least three feet away from any heat source in the home.

“Fireplaces, electric heaters, gas heaters,” Spencer Barkley, North Saanich firefighter, said. “You’ll also want to make sure it’s not blocking any exits.”

Barkley added if you are using real candles, they should be placed about 12 inches (30 centimetres) from any other decorations and should not be lit for any long periods of time.

“That also goes for Christmas lights,” Barner added. “If you are going to bed or leaving the house for any period of time, you should make sure you unplug your Christmas lights.”

Saanich police recommends putting your lights on a timer.

Saanich Police Sgt. Damian Kowalewich said having your lights on a timer serves a number of purposes, like making sure they get turned off.

He added it’s also a safety feature for your home if you decide to travel for a few days, serving as theft protection.

“There are a lot of people that are looking for homes that are in the dark for days at a time,” Kowalewich said. “Having lights on, having timers, will give the impression that there are in fact people home.”

He said residents should also me mindful of not putting large ticket items and gifts too close to any windows in your home or vehicle to lower the risk of theft.

Police say it’s also a good idea to have a neighbour keep an eye on your home, and collect any packages that are dropped off in the mail while you are away to avoid them being stolen.

More holiday safety tips can be found on the Government of Canada’s website.

Mackenzie ReadMackenzie Read

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