Don't let fire ruin the festive cheer this Christmas

Whether the highlight of the festive season is giving and receiving presents, decorating your home both inside and out, or tucking into that delicious Christmas dinner, this really is the most wonderful time of the year.

There is so much to think about as we edge closer to the main event, but one thing Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MFRS) is urging Merseyside residents to put at the top of their Christmas lists this year is fire safety.

While fire safety is important the whole year round, the extra distractions of Christmas make vigilance especially important.

MFRS is asking people to take extra care over Christmas, when the winter weather can bring its own challenges, to ensure that their families and loved ones are protected from fire.

Mark Thomas, Prevention Group Manager for MFRS, said: “Christmas should be a fun time for festive cheer with family and friends. But fairy lights, candles and decorations means it is also a time to take extra care to keep our loved ones safe from fire.

“We want everyone to enjoy a Merry Christmas and we urge all to keep fire safety at the top of your list.

“Ensure you place candles in suitable holders and away from curtains and festive decorations, never leave cooking unattended and, of course, test your smoke alarms.

“The colder weather brings its own dangers too. Take care when using portable heaters or open fires to keep warm and always look out for elderly neighbours, friends and relatives.”

Here are some tips to help you and your family enjoy the joys of Christmas safely:

• Never leave cooking unattended. The majority of fires start in the kitchen so this is a high risk area. Many of us enjoy a merry tipple over the festive season but be sure to avoid cooking whilst under the influence of alcohol. Always turn off kitchen appliances when you have finished cooking.

 Never leave burning candles unattended. Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets, and away from decorations, cards and wrapping paper, fires, lights and heaters.

• Never use heaters to dry clothes. Heaters can start fires when things are replaced too close to them. Keep them well away from curtains, clothing and furniture.

• Don’t overload sockets. Ensure only one plug per socket. Always turn off plugs when they are not in use, except those that are designed to be left on, like freezers.

 Ensure you have working smoke alarms installed on all levels of your home. A working alarm can give you the vital time needed to escape in a fire. Test your smoke alarms regularly and never remove batteries.

 Put your cigarette out, right out. Make sure your cigarette is fully extinguished and take care when under the influence of alcohol or tired. It’s very easy to fall asleep while your cigarette is still burning and this can set furniture alight.

• Ensure you switch off fairy lights and unplug them before you go to bed, or leave the house. Check your Christmas tree lights conform to the British Standard (BS EN 60598) and are in good working order before use.

• Always use an RCD (Residual Current Device) on outdoor electrical equipment. This safety device can save lives by instantly switching off the power if there is a fault and can be found in any DIY store.

• Do something good this Christmas. Test the smoke alarms of someone you know who may need help such as an older relative or neighbour to ensure their safety as they are at greater risk from fire.

• Make sure that everyone in your home knows what to do in case of fire – in the event of fire you should get out, stay out and call 999.

For free fire safety advice, or to arrange a Home Fire Safety Check, please call 0800 731 5958.