12/6/2012 10:00:00 PM Officials offer tips to prevent fires from decorations
Ken Hedler The Daily Courier
The holidays are all about celebration, but the most wonderful time of the year can turn tragic if people aren't careful with decorations.
Citing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and National Fire Protection Association, Capt. Rick Chase of the Central Yavapai Fire District said the decorations caused an average of 240 house fires a year from 2005 to 2009 in this country.
The fires also caused an average of 13 deaths and 27 injuries and $16.7 million in direct property damage a year, he said.
Both Chase and Battalion Chief Don Devendorf of the Prescott Fire Department stressed area residents can take several common-sense approaches to prevent fires during the holiday season.
Chase said LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs are cooler and less likely to cause fires in Christmas trees than incandescent bulbs. He also recommends checking their cords for fraying before turning on the lights.
People who use hanging bulbs indoors and outdoors must do so appropriately and in the right place, Chase said.
Devendorf cautions against using extension cords and overloading outlets.
Chase advises against using staples or nails for hanging lights around the house, and instead suggests using insulated hangers.
"The chance of hitting a wire or the staple coming in contact with the wire is more likely," he said.
People who use incandescent lightbulbs on their trees should unplug them at night or when they leave the house because they get much hotter than LED bulbs, Devendorf said.
Devendorf and Chase also recommend checking the water levels of fresh-cut trees.
Devendorf recommends keeping the water level above the base of the trunk, and said commercial additives will make the trees last longer.
The water will prevent the tree from drying out quicker, Chase said. He also recommends keeping the trees away from floor heaters, fireplaces and other heat sources.
Devendorf concurred, saying, "You want to keep your tree away from heat sources, including heater vents, because just the air blowing on it will dry it out faster."
Never put a lit candle on or near a tree, Chase said.
Better yet, use artificial trees because they do not dry out, Chase said. He urges consumers to read labels for fire resistance on artificial trees.
"It does not necessarily mean the tree won't catch on fire, but it will resist burning," Chase said.
Chase recommends disposing of real trees by taking them to a landfill or to an entity that chips the wood. Burning the tree in a fireplace can be hazardous because sap and dryness could cause it to burn hot, Chase said.
Other potential fire hazards exist during the holidays, Devendorf said.
He mentioned a house burned down more than a decade ago because a woman had baked for 14 hours straight that day. Her stove built up so much heat that the cabinetry on either side of the stove caught fire.