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GFRS reminds people of fire safety precautions over Christmas

Pic by Johnny Bugeja

The Gibraltar Fire and Rescue Service has warned the community to exercise caution during the festive season and offered advice on how to reduce the risk of fires.

Leading firefighter Dwayne Trinidad said that while the risks are similar to the rest of the year, Christmas traditions such as decorations, trees and candles can add a further element of danger in the household, as can cooking large meals for family events.

“Cooking is the main cause of fires,” he said.

“You'll probably find that during Christmas there is going to be more cooking because there are more people around the house. So you need to make sure there's no unsupervised cooking.”

“If you need to shoot off to another room to see to your children or to see to your guests, then what you can do is you can use the timer feature on your cooking appliance. By doing so you can ensure that the appliance will turn itself off after a predetermined time.”

“Don't leave the house when you're cooking. So don't put in the turkey, set a timer for hours and then decide that that's the time for you to fit in your Christmas shopping.”

“When it comes to after the cooking make sure you turn the appliances off. Fire can spread particularly quickly at night when there's no one there to detect it.”

He also urged people not to cook while under the influence of alcohol.

“Have a drink, but drink sensibly and responsibly and don't get drunk because it can also cause a fire incident,” he said.

Mr Trinidad advised too that candles should be placed well away from decorations or places where there could be easily knocked over, especially in busy households hosting family events.

Care too must be taken that any open windows do not blow decorations of curtains near a naked flame.

And, of course, the obvious final step: “Also, very important to make sure that before you leave the house that the candle is extinguished. Don't leave it lit overnight.”

Decorations can also pose a risk, especially the paper chains often made by children in school, which can be a hazard even when placed close to a bulb or similar heat source.

Lights too are a potential fire hazard.

“You'll find that a lot of people like to have lights hanging outside the window or inside the house to give you the home that Christmas feel. When it comes to lighting make sure you don't overload your sockets,” he said.
“Don't overload your extensions, keep it reasonable and within the safe margins.”

“When it comes to lightning, make sure that they comply to a British or an EU standard. You may get a good deal from a knockoff website somewhere. But you don't know if that's going to comply with our standards and if it's going to be suitable for our power grid.”

Switching off all lights at night was also highlighted by Mr Trinidad, as was closing all doors in a home.

“Because fire can spread pretty quickly at night. Because there's no one that detects it,” he said.

“Unless you have a smoke detector that will pick it up. But we still advise you to close your doors that will stop the fire from spreading ,and just as important as fire spreading is smoke.”

“80% of people have smoke related injuries in a fire as opposed to the fire itself. So you keep the doors closed and that will stop the spread of smoke and fire.”

If you do have a fire in the house, his advice is if you feel confident enough and have the equipment to do so, then extinguish it. If not call 190 and get out.

“If you're in any doubt whatsoever, get out,” he said.

“Make sure you close all doors behind you. Even if you open the door to the kitchen and you've seen there is a fire and not just the detector going off for any reason, close the door behind you. Leave your property, close that door as well and call 190.”

He reiterated that it is not safe to stay in the house even if you have fire doors.

Leading firefighter Shane Brown also took the opportunity to remind people of the fire hazards fireworks can cause.

“We strongly recommend that individuals, before using fireworks, read the manufacturer's advice and most importantly, the part on adequate disposal,” he said.

“You don't want warm or hot fireworks being thrown into the rubbish and causing an incident at later stage.”

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