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Take steps to prevent house fires

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Did you know plug-in air fresheners can be a fire hazard?

I recently discovered that little golden nugget of information when my brother-in-law and his family came to visit us for a few days.  

He had only been seated a few minutes with a frosty beer in his hand when he abruptly jumped up and headed across my living room.  Bending down, he promptly unplugged my vanilla scented air freshener and turned facing me with a look of disgust.  "Do you have any idea how many homes are destroyed by these things each year?" he said.

Did I mention my brother-in-law is also a fire chief for a city in Ontario?  So he does know a thing or two about fire hazards.  I, on the other hand, had absolutely no knowledge that my nice-smelling oil air freshener could be a death trap in my home.  

So after Dale had gone through every room unplugging and tossing my air fresheners into the garbage, we walked up to the store and replaced them non plug-in ones.

The culprit is a small heating element inside the air freshener that can make the oil flammable. The plastic they are made of is too thin, which in turn can cause the liquid inside to seep into the electrical outlet.  Insurance and Fire Inspectors can easily detect the cause when only two prongs are left protruding from the wall in the aftermath of a house fire.

This gave me both the idea for my next column and the sense of urgency I felt to share this important information with you.

From the time our children began their first day at school in the fall, it was a reminder for us to change the batteries in the smoke alarms and update fire extinguishers in our home. So after researching and speaking with firefighters, I would like to share the top eight fire hazards that may be lurking in your home:

1) Walking away from cooking in the kitchen. Even toasters are highly flammable.

2) Worn out electrical cords or chewed cords (bunnies find them delicious).

3) Malfunctioning electrical appliances such as coffee makers, computer monitors, televisions and toasters.

4) Putting flammable objects near a heat source, such as lamp shades resting on a bulb or curtains too close to a radiator.

5) Overloading a power bar can easily make it spark.

6) Leaving candles unattended — it can take less than a minute to cause a fire.

7) Using fireplaces and wood stoves incorrectly.  Ensure your chimney is clean before use. Never throw ashes away that are not 100% cool. All it takes is one smouldering coal to start a fire.

8) Leaving burning cigarettes unattended is a big no-no and yet another reason to quit, maybe.

So there is my speech for the new approaching season and I wish you all a very safe and happy fall!

Virginia Sperl is a Silver Heights-based writer.

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