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City Manager's Office
City Manager's Office
Press Contact: Khin Chin, Office of Emergency Services, (510) 981-5506


Berkeley, California (Thursday, December 11, 2008) - Berkeley Fire Department/Office of Emergency Services encourages you to use the following safety tips to protect yourself, your family and your home from the potential threat of fire this winter.  You can greatly reduce your chances of being a fire casualty by being able to identify potential hazards and following these safety tips:

Heating Safety

  • Never use kerosene heaters or charcoal grills indoors.
  • Never use your gas stove or oven for home heating.  In addition to being a fire hazard, it can be a source for toxic fumes.
  • Alternative heaters should be kept 3 feet away from combustibles.  Make sure your alternative heaters have tip switches, which automatically turn off the heaters if they tip over.
  • Only use the type of fuel recommended by the manufacturer and follow suggested guidelines.  Never refill a space heater while it is operating or still hot.
  • Make sure wood stoves are properly installed, have adequate ventilation, and are at least 3 feet away from combustibles.
  • Use a glass or metal screen in front of your fireplace to prevent sparks from igniting carpets, furniture or other combustible items.

Holiday Lights and Decorations

  • Inspect your holiday lights for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive wear before putting them up.  Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
  • Don't link more than three light strands.  Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet.  Periodically check the wires to be sure they are cool.
  • Never leave holiday lights on unattended.
  • Use only nonflammable or flame-retardant decorations.
  • Never put wrapping paper in a fireplace. 

Holiday Trees

  • Choose a fresh tree:  Needles should be green and hard to pull back from the branches.  The trunk should be sticky.  If you bounce the trunk on the ground and many needles fall off, the tree has probably dried out and is a fire hazard.
  • Care for your tree:  Keep your tree away from heat, including fireplace or heating vent.  Don't leave your live tree up for longer than two weeks.  Keep the tree stand filled with water.
  • Dispose of your tree:  Never put branches or needles in a fireplace or woodburning stove.  When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The City of Berkeley will pick up holiday trees on regular plant debris removal days during January.
  • If you use an artificial tree, make sure it's flame retardant.

Other Tips

  • Be careful when using candles.  Keep the flame away from combustibles and out of the reach of children. Never put lit candles on a tree.
  • Some smoke alarms may be dependent on your home's electrical service and could be inoperative during a power outage.  Make sure your smoke alarm uses a back-up battery.
  • Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your home.
  • Test your smoke alarms monthly.  All batteries should be replaced with new ones at least once a year (in October, when daylight savings time ends.)
  • If there is a fire hydrant near your home, keep it clear of debris for easy access by the fire department.

For more information and safety tips, visit www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/getready or call Berkeley's Office of Emergency Services at 510-981-5506.  We want to keep you safe this winter!


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