Practice good safety, prevent December house fires

Published 8:26pm Friday, December 20, 2013

With all the lights, extension cords and yard displays set up for the holidays, it’s easy to be distracted from important safety precautions that could mean the difference between a merry Christmas and a burnt one.

According to the United States Fire Administration, December is the peak time of year for home fires caused by candles. More than half (56 percent) of home candle fires occur when flammable objects are too close to the flame. Last year, 11 percent of candle fires began with decorations catching on fire.

Heat sources including candles, faulty lights, lighters, matches and fireplaces too close to a Christmas tree causes one in every six Christmas tree fires.

To ensure maximum safety, keep candles and any other open flames a safe distance from Christmas trees and other decorations. When leaving a home, blow out any lit candles and extinguish any other flames, including fireplaces.

For Christmas tree lights, make sure there aren’t any broken bulbs or circuit issues with the cords. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, one of every three home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems.

“Usually what will happen is, when someone leaves the house for a long time, it’ll overheat,” Bainbridge Public Safety Investigator Ryan Deen said. “When they leave the house, turn them off.”

Bainbridge Public Safety Major Robert Humphrey said many people don’t realize they’re using bad extension cords.

“What that does is heats that cord up and burns it up sometimes,” Humphrey said. “It’s working that much harder to provide electricity.

To reduce the possibility of a Christmas tree fire, ensure trees are well watered. Hydrated trees are typically not a problem. Dry and neglected trees can be.

On average, one of every 40 reported home structure Christmas tree fires results in a death. In the case of a fire, a properly working fire alarm is essential.

“One of the most important things people can do is check their batteries in their fire alarms,” Deen said. “That’s one of the best things they can do. If they don’t have one, they need to get one.”

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