Experts: Holidays Mean Increased Fire Safety Risk

Northwest Iowa — In the next few days, several Christmas trees, lights, candles and other decorations will be put up both inside and outside of homes in northwest Iowa and around the world.
christmas tree lights candle
However, all those Christmas lights and a dry Christmas tree are a recipe for disaster. We talked with Sibley Fire Chief Kenny Huls. He says the wiring behind a Christmas tree often resembles an octopus — with several strings — sometimes piggy-backed, going into the same outlet. Huls says that situation is one that could cause a fire.

He says the small-gauge wiring can often get hot. Officials at the US Fire Administration advise to inspect your holiday light wiring every year, especially the older it gets. Look for frayed or bare spots, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive wear, and never leave your lights on unattended.

Huls also has some tips on tree selection.

Fire prevention experts say if you must have a real tree, make sure it’s green and the needles don’t break when you bend them. If many needles fall off when you bounce the bottom of the trunk on the ground, it’s too dry to be safe.

Fire prevention experts advise not to put your tree near a fireplace — for obvious reasons — but also don’t put it near a heat vent or radiator. The heat will dry the tree out. That makes it a fire hazard. And place it where it’s close enough to outlets so you don’t need to run an extra extension cord.

Huls says if a tree does catch fire — unfortunately it will be a very fast-moving fire.

Huls says candles are also very dangerous and should be treated with a healthy dose of caution at all times if you use them at all. And never leave candles burning in an unattended room.

More cooking during the holidays also leads to an increased fire risk in the kitchen. The National Fire Prevention Association says 40 percent of home fires start in the kitchen. The leading cause of kitchen fires is unattended cooking.

Their experts say the potential for a cooking fire can be reduced by:

  • Wearing clothing with tight-fitting sleeves when cooking;
  • Keeping potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper and plastic bags, towels and anything else that can burn, away from the stovetop;
  • Turning off burners before leaving the kitchen; and
  • Cleaning up food and grease from burners and stovetops.

The experts also say that an important way to guard against fires is to have working smoke alarms on each level of the home.

Huls says if you remember to keep heat sources away from fuel sources, you should be relatively safe from fire this holiday season.

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