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December 29, 2003
Don't invite disaster to your holiday celebrations
Your guests have departed, the dishes are cleared away. Time to turn out the
Christmas tree lights and go to bed. But have you forgotten something? What if
one of your guests accidentally dropped a cigarette between the cushions on the
couch, where it could smolder, undetected, for hours? The first you may know of
it is when the smoke alarm shrieks its warning at 4 a.m. If you don't have a
working smoke alarm, you may not wake up at all.

Unfortunately, the number of fires and fire deaths typically rises sharply
during the holiday season. Gatherings of family and friends can mean an
increase in cooking activity, which is 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 of Toronto's fire and vehicle deaths. Add candles,
holiday decorations and heating equipment to the mix and the potential for
disaster is great.

You can protect your home and your family from fire with these simple, common
sense safety tips from the Toronto Fire Services:

Alcohol: Cooking, smoking and driving while under the influence of alcohol can
be deadly. Keep a close eye on any drinkers in your household and make sure all
cigarettes are properly extinguished and the stove is off before going to bed.

Candles: Keep candles in a sturdy holder away from children, pets and
combustible materials. Snuff them out before leaving the room.

Cooking: Look while you cook - unattended cooking is the leading cause of
kitchen fires. Wear tight-fitting or rolled-up sleeves when cooking and keep
all combustible materials a safe distance from the stove.

Christmas trees: Keep the base of the trunk in water at all times. Discard any
broken or frayed sets of lights. Lit candles should never be placed on or near
the Christmas tree. When the tree starts to dry out, it's time to dispose it.

Space heaters: Keep portable heaters at least one metre away from anything that
can burn--including you. Don't use your heaters to dry shoes or clothes.

Heating appliances: Remember to have your furnace inspected each year by a
licensed technician. Your chimney should also be cleaned and inspected annually
to prevent problems that may cause a build-up of carbon monoxide. A carbon
monoxide alarm will alert you to the presence of this deadly gas.

Smoke alarms: It is the law in Ontario to have working smoke alarms. The
Toronto Fire Services recommends that you install one on every level of your
home and outside all sleeping areas. Test your alarms regularly and change the
batteries at least once a year.

Home escape plan: If a fire does occur in your home, everyone must get out as
quickly as possible. Develop a fire escape plan and practice it with your
entire family.

For information about holiday fire safety, visit:

Media contact: Mike Strapko, Acting District Chief, Toronto Fire Services,
416-338-9319 (office) 416-570-2841 (cell), 416-334-5223 (pager)



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