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Emergency Services

Graham County Emergency Services Director
Mickie Helberg, CPTA, NREMT-P, FC, KCEM

722 W. Main Street
Hill City, KS 67642
(Office) 785-421-3455
(Cell) 785-421-8186
(Fax) 785-421-3473

Fire safety tips for Happy Holidays

As the holidays approach, Kansans are becoming increasingly excited about adorning their homes with Christmas trees, Menorahs, ornaments and garlands. Holiday decorations, as beautiful as they are, can also be a home fire hazard. The Office of the State Fire Marshal wants to help Kansans have a truly Happy Holiday season by offering tips to reduce the chance for home fires which would spoil this wonderful time of year.

Christmas Trees

National estimates of reported home structure fires derived from the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and NFPA’s annual Fire Department Experience Survey show that in 2009-2013, Christmas trees were the item first ignited in an estimated average of 210 reported home structure fires per year, resulting in an annual average of seven civilian fire deaths, 19 civilian fire injuries, and $17.5 million in direct property damage.

  • Look for flame-resistant artificial trees. Keep tree at least three feet away from heat sources.
  • Ensure your natural tree is kept fresh in water throughout its recommended two-week life.

Watch this video demonstrating how quickly a dried-out Christmas tree will burn compared to a well-watered tree:


December is the peak time of year for home candle fires. In December, 11% of home candle fires began with decorations compared to 4% the rest of the year.

  • Never leave a burning candle unattended.
  • Make sure candles are in stable bases and have plenty of space around them. Place them where they cannot be easily knocked down or turned over.
  • Flashlights or battery-powered lamps should be used during a power outage (not candles). Be sure to keep fresh batteries on-hand.

Holiday Lights

  • Inspect holiday lights before using for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, or broken sockets.
  • Only use lights that have been tested and labeled by a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Avoid overloading -- do not link more than three strands.
  • Unplug decorative lights when leaving the home.

Cooking is, and has long been, the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries, and according to the records collected from reporting fire departments in Kansas, home cooking fires increase significantly around the times of major holidays such as Christmas.


  • Always stay in the kitchen while frying, grilling or broiling food. If you have to leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove. Have a lid handy to slide over a skillet or pot that has caught on fire.
  • Keep things that can catch fire such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels and curtains away from the cooking area.

Heating and Fireplaces

During the holidays, a nice roaring fire in the fireplace can add to the season ambience, but can also increase the chances of a home fire. The use of portable space heaters also increases significantly during the colder months, which is also a major cause of home fires. Half (50%) of all home heating fires occurred in December, January and February.

  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.

 Smoke Alarms

  • Working smoke alarms should be a priority at any time of the year.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly to ensure they are functioning properly and replace outdated smoke alarms with units featuring 10-year sealed lithium batteries.
Northwest Kansas Mitigation Plans

Over the past several months a taskforce of stakeholders in Graham County have provided information for an updated Mitigation Plan for Northwest Kansas. Graham County residents are encouraged to review the draft plan by contacting

Graham County Emergency Management Office @ 785-421-3455 or email at

Kansas State Fire Marshal Smoke Detector Program

Free smoke detectors to qualifying homes.

In September 2014, the Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) implemented a statewide residential smoke alarm installation program as a fire prevention effort. “Saving the Lives of Kansans - One Home at a Time” allows trained volunteers to install smoke alarms in owner-occupied homes free of charge.

You are eligible to have a FREE smoke detector installed in your home if:

  • You live in Kansas (must show proof of residency)
  • You own the home you live in (not a rental property)
  • You currently have no smoke detector in your home
Contact Graham County Fire Department regarding this program.


Section 324 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, also known as SARA Title III (Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986, PL99-499) requires public notice at least once annually informing the public of the means to access information about extremely hazardous substances that are manufactured, stored, and used within their community. Follow-up emergency notices may subsequently be issued.

Accordingly, information concerning LEPC meetings, SARA Title III hazardous materials planning which includes our Graham County LEPC Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Plan, materials safety data sheets (MSDS), hazardous chemical inventory forms, listing extremely hazardous substances manufactured, stored, or used within Graham County can be obtained during normal business hours by contacting Graham County Emergency Management at 785-421-3455.