All about safety
Fire department holds exhibit at Mall of Georgia

BUFORD - Rosi Martinez said she's always talked to her family about fire safety, but after seeing an exhibit Saturday at the Mall of Georgia, the Blairsville resident said she knows she can do more.

One thing she said she'd like to do is buy an escape ladder for her second-floor bedrooms, so her granddaughters can make it out of the house safely if a fire breaks out.

Keeping ladders in second-floor bedrooms was just one of the tips being given Saturday in the fire safety campaign. Penny Tanner, coordinator of Fire Safety Commissioner John Oxendine's fire safety house, talked to children about what they should do if a blaze breaks out in their home.

Tanner told the visitors to the fire safety house about the importance of smoke detectors, having an escape plan and designating a meeting place outside the home.

"Every time I've seen someone not make it out of a house fire, it's been because of carelessness," she said.

The message is especially important during the holidays because the chance of fires increases at this time of year, said Lt. Thomas Rutledge, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Fire Department.

"During the holidays, the fire load inside a home increases," he said.

The Gwinnett County Fire Department, Gwinnett County Citizens Fire Academy Alumni and Gwinnett County Fire Explorer Cadets were also on hand to talk to mall patrons about how to prevent fires. The groups set up at the mall because they could reach a large number of people, Rutledge said.

Although the fire safety house was geared toward young children, the message about fire safety is important for everyone, Rutledge said.

Rutledge said there are four things everyone should know about fires:

' They're dark. The blaze will produce smoke that will quickly fill up a room.

' They're hot. The heat will rise to the ceiling, and breathing air that is more than 150 degrees can kill you. Everyone should get down to the floor and crawl out of the house to escape.

' Smoke and gas are the No. 1 killers, not flames.

' Time is against you in a fire. It's important to get out of the house as quickly as possible - in under three minutes - and not stop to get dressed or collect belongings.

SideBar: Preventing Holiday Fires

' When selecting a tree, choose one with green needles that are hard to pull back from the branches. The needles should not break on a tree that has been freshly cut. The trunk should also be sticky to the touch.

' Bounce the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has probably dried out and may be a fire hazard.

' Do not place a tree close to a heat source, such as a fireplace or heat vent, because the tree will dry out and can be more easily ignited by a flame or a spark.

' Do not drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree.

' Do not put a live tree up too early or keep it up for longer than two weeks.

' Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times to keep the tree moist.

' When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of a tree is to take it to a recycling center or have it hauled away by a community pick-up service.

' If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.

' Never put lit candles on a tree.

' Use only nonflammable decorations.

' Before using holiday lights, inspect them for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinks or wear.

' Periodically check the wires. They should not be warm to the touch.

' Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.

' Do not leave holiday lights on unattended.

' Never put wrapping paper in a fireplace, because burning wrapping paper can produce toxic gases.

Source: Gwinnett County Fire Department