Season brings fire risksPublished 7:13pm Saturday, December 1, 2012
Holiday lights bring a shiny glimmer to children’s eyes but they could bring a shiny glimmer to a home as it catches on fire. With all of the live trees and overheating lights; Christmas decorations can literally become kindling for fires if homeowners do not take proper precautions and monitor their decorations.
Selma Fire Chief Mike Stokes said the most common problem the department sees with fires is from the overuse of extension cords with holiday lights.
“Extension cords are not designed to carry multiple wires,” Stokes said. “Just because an extension cord has seven outlets on it, doesn’t mean you should plug in seven different things, so we see a lot of overloading of extension cords and surge protectors because that is what people do.”
Stokes also said that live trees should be cared for properly so they do not dry out. Drier trees make it easier for the heat of the tree lights to catch the tree on fire. Once the tree is on fire, the whole home is in jeopardy of burning. Artificial trees are recommended, he said.
“If someone does get a live tree we recommend that they check and refill the water every single day,” Stokes said. “We also want to make sure people are using indoor lights only on their live tree and if they are using outdoor lighting we ask that that be specifically designed for outdoors.”
He said this is because outdoor lights generate more heat and if they were placed on an indoor tree, the lights would overheat and increase the chance for a fire. If indoor lights are used on an outdoor area, the wiring may not be tolerant of weather conditions and rain.
“I would discourage leaving lights on with a live tree, and if you are using any kind of extension cord, we ask that those not be left on when the homeowner is away,” Stokes said.
Timers and extension cords should all be Underwriter Laboratory approved and if they are, they will have a UL label on the equipment.
Stokes said there are other concerns that come with the holidays including more cooking, which can result in kitchen fires around the holiday season.
“People storing combustible items right next to a space heater is our main concern,” Stokes said. “We also see an increase in kitchen fires where people are cooking and getting busy and forget they have something on the stove.”