Don’t invite disaster to holiday celebrations Published Dec. 8, 2006 By William C. Dodson Assistant Chief, Fire Prevention ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- The guests have left and the dishes are done. It's time to turn off the Christmas tree lights and go to bed. STOP! Have you forgotten something? What if one of the guests accidentally dropped a cigarette between the cushions of the couch where it could smolder undetected for hours? The first sign is the smoke alarm sounds its warning at 3 a.m. If the smoke alarms aren't working, you may not wake up at all. Traditionally, the number of fires and deaths rises during the holiday season. Gathering of family and friends can mean an increase in cooking activities, the leading cause of home fires. Alcohol consumption also tends to increase this time of year and is cited as a contributing factor in many fire deaths. Add candles, holiday decorations and heating equipment to the mix and the potential for disaster is great. Protect your home and family by following these simple, common sense safety tips: Cooking Unattended cooking is the leading cause of kitchen fires. Wear tight fitting or rolled up sleeves when cooking and keep all combustible materials at a safe distance from any stove. Have a lid handy to put on a pan if it catches fire. Supervise children when cooking in the kitchen. Alcohol Cooking or smoking while under the influence of alcohol can be deadly. Keep a close eye on any drinkers in the household, make sure all cigarettes are properly, extinguished and the stove is off before going to bed. Candles Keep candles in sturdy holders and away from combustible materials. Never leave candles unattended and make sure the candles are completely out when leaving the house or retiring for the night. Keep all matches, lighters and candles away from children Christmas trees When buying a fresh tree, keep the base in water at all times and water the tree daily. Discard broken or frayed light sets. Never place any type of candles on or near the tree. Live Christmas trees are allowed in base housing only. Artificial trees will be used in base buildings and dormitories unless approved by Lakenheath Fire Emergency Services. Space heaters Space heaters are not allowed in base housing or dormitories. In offices, space heaters cannot be plugged into extension cords, surge suppressors, or modular furniture. When leaving the office for the day, or even for a short time, unplug the space heater. Make sure the heater has an 18 inch clearance around it from all combustibles. Heating appliances Remember to have the furnace inspected yearly by a licensed technician. The chimney should be cleaned annualy to prevent problems that may cause a buildup of carbon monoxide. Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home, to alert you to the presence of this deadly, odorless gas. Smoke alarms Smoke alarms are required in base housing and all dormitories on base. The fire service recommends installing one on every level of a home, outside all sleeping areas and in all bedrooms. Test the detectors monthly and, if battery operated, replace the batteries annually. Home escape plan Develop a fire escape plan and practice it with the family. If a fire occurs, everyone needs to get out as quickly as possible. Each year, hospital emergency rooms around the country treat thousands of injuries, such as falls, cuts and shocks relating to holiday lights, decorations and Christmas trees. Christmas trees are involved in hundreds of fires annually, resulting in needless deaths and millions of dollars of property loss and damage. By following these simple safety tips, many holiday-related fires. The members of the Lakenheath Fire Department want you to stay safe this holiday season. It is the best gift you can give to yourself and to your family.