By Tamas Mondovics

Once the spark was struck, it took about 10 seconds for the mid-size christmas tree to be fully engulfed in flames and burnt to a crisp, during the annual holiday fire safety demonstration event held this month at the County’s Fire Rescue Training facility at 116 S. 34th St. in Tampa.

Reaching the desired results, the live fire demonstration was designed to educate residents featuring the proper use of fire extinguishers, space heater safety, the need of smoke and CO alarms, Christmas tree and holiday lights safety as well as cooking safety, including everyone’s favorite; turkey frying.

“The event clearly draws attention to fire safety and reminds residents that the holiday season can be full of fire hazards,” said Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Fire Chief Dennis Jones who was joined by representatives of Hillsborough County Fire Departments and Chiefs, Plant City Fire Rescue, Tampa Fire Rescue, and the Temple Terrace Fire Department.

Jones said that fire prevention is a top priority for all fire departments, and in an effort to better serve the residents of Hillsborough County, the departments are collaborating with a unified message to keep families safe throughout the holiday season and beyond.

While Jones and Fire Marshal Tammy Zurla addressed Christmas tree and holiday lights safety, Plant City Fire Rescue Fire Chief Dan Azzariti and Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal David Burnett spoke about the safe use of appliances.

Temple Terrace Fire Department Division Chief of Risk Reduction, Deputy Fire Marshal, Dale Deleacaes took a turn to talk about cooking safety, followed by Tampa Fire Rescue Training Division Chief Jason Dougherty, who shed some light on the dangers of frying a turkey the wrong way, which provided a spectacular fire display for the camera.

For starters, Dougherty emphasized that residents should never use a fryer in, or under, a garage, breezeway, carport, porch, deck or any other structure that can catch a fire adding, “Frying a turkey takes extra safety measures,” he said. “Make sure that the turkey is completely thawed, and that the oil does not exceed the required temperature, which in most cases is about 350 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Keeping children and pets away from the cooking area was an obvious tip, especially after the frozen bird was dropped into the overheated oil, which quickly fired back; literally.

Christmas tree safety was also on the top of the event roster. Safety tips included the replacing of broken bulbs, damaged cords, adding water to the tree stand daily, not blocking any exit or entry ways, as well as the setting up a tree at least three feet away from any heat source.

“One in three Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems,” Jones said, adding, “This should be the most festive time of the year, and we are working hard to make sure that it doesn’t end in tragedy.”

For a full list of safety tips, visit www.nfpa.org/safety-information/safety-tip-sheets.