Halloween costume concerns and trick-or-treating safety advice

By Erin Brookshier - Virginia Today Reporter

ROANOKE (WSLS 10)-- Halloween is upon us and as many of us are putting the finishing touches on our costumes and decorations, fire safety experts are reminding us to be safe.

Some of the most classic Halloween decorations include paper ghosts, dried cornstalks, Jack-O-Lanterns and creepy candle displays-- and while they're beautiful to look at, many of those items pose a huge fire risk that could be really scary.

According to the National Fire Incident Reporting System, Halloween fires happen most frequently in the late afternoon and early evening hours, while Trick-or-Treaters are out. The leading cause of Halloween fires last year was unattended cooking (44%). Heating issues also led to quite a few fires (15%), followed by carelessness with an open flame (7%).

About 900 fires were ignited by decorations last year. That's why experts say it is important to keep all decorations away from open flames and other heat sources and use battery operated flameless candles when you can, especially for pumpkins and decorations.

Another important thing to keep in mind-- the costumes that kids will be running around in all night.

"Especially with costumes, make sure they're wearing things that wouldn't be easy to catch on fire," says Tiffany Bradbury, with Roanoke Fire EMS. "A lot of people still light Jack-O-Lanterns or have candles set up. Be sure kids are safe around those types of things. Also, remind them to stop, drop and roll if their clothes do catch on fire."

When choosing a costume, stay away from trailing fabric that could drag over a flame. If your child is wearing a mask, make sure the eye holes are big enough that they can see out-- to see the potential dangers around them.

While Halloween is one of the most fun nights of the year for kids, it's also the most dangerous. According to Safe Kids USA, kids are twice as likely to be hit and killed by a car on Halloween than any other night. Kids aren't always paying as much attention as they should be and as it gets dark earlier, it's hard for drivers to see them. Experts say there's also a noticeable increase in drunk driving incidents during the weekend before and on Halloween night, which can lead to even more dangerous conditions.

As you're driving home from work on Halloween night, keep in mind there will be kids running around in neighborhoods. They'll be running from house to house and apartment to apartment. Police say they also see more kids in parking garages and parking lots,  as they travel other places to trick-or-treat.

For trick-or-treaters, the key to staying safe is visibility.

"Whether it's your costume that illuminates you or a flashlight, there are a multitude of options," Says Sgt. David Morris with the Roanoke City Police Major Crimes Division. "You can get glow sticks, they have small ones for your hands, large ones for your head and stuff like that."

From ninjas to Batman and even witches, there are a lot of costumes that are almost completely black or dark gray. It's important for all kids to carry a flashlight or glow stick, but especially if they're wearing something that will make it hard for drivers to see those costumes.

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