Officials stress winter safety precautions

By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer

Winter brings holidays, parties, cold temperatures — and safety issues.

Fires, burglaries and purse snatching, and spoiling food at parties can cause problems, but steps can be taken to protect yourself and your family.

To prevent fires, keep ashes cleaned out of fireplaces or wood-burning stoves away from anything flammable until the coals are cold.

“The hot coals are what burn down more houses around here than anything else,” said Portales Firefighter Scott Watson.

Coals can start fires in weeds or Dumpsters or on porches if thrown out while they’re still hot.

Portales Fire Department Lt. Harlin Stobbs recommended keeping grass around homes short and yards clean, and stacking firewood away from the house to avoid damage from grass fires.

“Because the vegetation’s so dry in the winter, it’s really easy to burn,” he said.

For inside the house, Watson said keep flammable material away from space heaters.

Candles are also a source of fire problems, Stobbs said.

The National Fire Protection Association advises keeping candles at least a foot away from flammable material and out of reach of children. Never leave a lit candle unattended and use candle holders that won’t fall over or catch fire.

“Make sure all the fire alarms are working and have a battery that’s charged up,” Stobbs advised.

Change batteries in fire alarms when the time changes in the spring and fall, whether the batteries need it or not, Stobbs said. In many house fires, he said, alarm batteries are dead.

For theft prevention, Portales Police Detective Todd Moore offers several tips.

“Burglaries pick up throughout the holidays,” he said.

When traveling, Moore said, leave on a light and a television, radio or other device at home that makes noise. He also recommended having a trusted person pick up mail and newspapers.

“Make sure all your doors are locked,” Moore said.

Although Portales police haven’t seen much purse snatching this holiday season, Moore advised never to leave purses unattended.

“Be observant as to who’s around you,” he said.

For that New Year’s Eve party, Roosevelt County Cooperative Extension home economist Connie Moyers said hosts should leave food that is cooked or requires refrigeration out for no more than two hours. Also, keep cold foods at or below 40 degrees and hot foods at or above 140 degrees to prevent bacterial growth.

Moyers advises setting out different dishes at different times to allow part of the food to be kept heated or chilled. Slow cookers can keep food heated to safe temperatures, and containers of cold food can sit in larger bowls of ice.