Survive the holidays

Dear editor:
While the month of December traditionally is a time for families to come together and enjoy the festive season, it is also the time of year when we see a marked increase in the number of fatal fires.
For the Ontario fire service, December through March is, without a doubt, the deadliest time of the year.
Last year on Dec. 25, a Toronto family, like thousands of others, sat down to enjoy Christmas dinner. That night, the family awoke to a blazing fire that destroyed the house and claimed the lives of an 18-year-old and his 14-year-old sister.
This tragic fire last Christmas Day is just one heartbreaking example of how easily a celebration can turn into disaster. No one can afford to dismiss a home fire as something that happens to someone else.
Survive the holidays with these simple fire prevention and protection steps:
•Smoking or cooking while under the influence of alcohol are serious fire risks. Drink responsibly and keep an eye on those who don’t.
•Smokers’ materials are a leading cause of fatal fires. If you must smoke indoors, make sure all cigarettes and matches are fully extinguished.
And be sure to keep matches and lighters out of sight and reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet.
•Keep candles in a sturdy holder away from children, pets, and combustible materials. Snuff them out before leaving the room.
•Make sure you have a working smoke alarm on every level of your home and outside all sleeping areas. Test your smoke alarms every month, and never remove the batteries except to change them.
•Create and practise a home escape plan with every member of your family. Know two ways out of all areas in case your main exit is blocked.
No one needs to die in a fire. The fire department will do its very best to protect you if a fire occurs, but ultimately, your family’s safety is your responsibility.
Please have a fire-safe holiday season.
Bernard Moyle
Ontario Fire Marshal