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LETTER TO EDITOR: Take fire precautions this holiday season

To the editor:

I offer this seasonal message with a real sense of urgency. Few things in life are as important to us as families and friends, personal possessions and holiday memories. Yet these are the very things we risk if we enter the holiday season without thinking about fire safety.

During the week between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day, more fires occur in Minnesota homes than at any other time of year. Cooking, heating and open flames are the three main causes -- combined with the distraction that holiday celebrations can bring.

That's why I ask you to read the following information clip it out, hang it on the refrigerator and review it with your family. It can save your lives, your homes and your happiness from the horror of a preventable fire.

Cooking: Never leave cooking unattended. Every year, firefighters hear the same lament from fire victims: "I just stepped away for a moment." Keep pot holders and rags away from cooking surfaces, and turn pot handles inward to avoid spills and scalds. Finally, keep the skillet lid handy; a grease fire can be smothered with a tight lid.

At the fireplace: Remove stockings and decorations before using the fireplace. Clear the area of toys, gifts and debris. Never burn wrapping paper; it burns so hot and fast, it can ignite creosote in your chimney. Have your chimney checked and cleaned annually.

Candles: Don't leave burning candles unattended. Keep them away from curtains, clothing, ribbons, greenery and other flammable materials. Place them on sturdy, uncluttered surfaces where children cannot reach them, and check before retiring to be sure they're all extinguished.

Finally, do anything it takes to raise awareness among your family and friends. Every shared safety tip, every careful gesture may be one residential fire prevented.

Your Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division wishes you peace and joy during the holidays and throughout the year.

Jerry Rosendahl

State Fire Marshall