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.

Gas Prices Dip Below $2 Just In Time For Thanksgiving

gas 1.99Sheldon, Iowa — Gas prices are below two-dollars a gallon in many locations as Iowans prepare to hit the road for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  Tuesday afternoon in Sheldon, prices were at $1.99 a gallon.

Triple-A Iowa spokesperson Rose White says motorists are thankful for pump prices that haven’t been seen in 7 years.

The U.S. Energy Administration has reported domestic crude oil inventories are near an all-time high and White says many Midwest refineries are back on-line after planned or unplanned maintenance.

Tuesday morning, Triple-A reported the statewide average for a gallon of regular unleaded gas dropped to $2.08.

Nearly 60-percent of all gas stations in the U.S. are now selling fuel below $2 a gallon.

VNU “Christmas With Lights” Starts Friday Night

VNU DisplaySheldon, Iowa — One of the most anticipated fixtures of the Christmas season in northwest Iowa is the stunning Christmas light display at Village Northwest Unlimited in Sheldon.

This year’s display will feature animated scenes which include the Christmas Story, a 14-foot Christmas tree, dancing Christmas trees, Frosty the Snowman, and Christmas at the North Pole. Each light show is set to corresponding music available through a different radio frequency for each scene.

The Village Northwest Unlimited “Celebrate Christmas With Lights” display will be lit from dusk to 9PM each evening beginning this Friday, November 27th and running through January 1st.

Village Northwest staff and residents invite everyone to come to the Village and enjoy this unique and entertaining experience that can become a holiday tradition for you and your family.

Forecasters Predict A Damp Holiday

National Weather Service NWS logoNorthwest Iowa — It’ll be a busy travel week for Iowans who are heading down the road to visit friends and relatives for Thanksgiving and they’ll likely be driving on wet pavement. High temperatures will climb into the 20’s to upper 30’s here in northwest Iowa over the next few days, with temperatures hitting the 50’s in some parts of the state, melting some of last weekend’s snow, but National Weather Service meteorologist Mindy Beerends says another storm front is closing in.

While much of Iowa got whalloped by last weekend’s snowstorm, she says there’s a remote possiblity more flakes will by flying soon.

Here in northwest Iowa, the forecast calls for a chance of snow developing late Wednesday night, with approximately 2-inches of new snow forecast for Thanksgiving Day.

Travelers should see mostly sunny and dry weather Friday and Saturday, while Sunday is forecast to be mostly cloudy, but dry.  A 40-percent chance of snow creeps back into the forecast for Sunday night, and continues into Monday.

Northwest Iowa Native Releases Book Explaining Her Life With Cystic Fibrosis

Ashley Ballou-BonnemaSioux Falls, South Dakota — Ashley Ballou Bonnema grew up in northwest Iowa, graduating from West Lyon High School in 2005.  Although she looks like a typical 28-year old, she is fighting Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic fatal disease that affects the respiratory system of 30,000 people in the United States. CF causes the body to produce a thick, sticky mucus that clogs the airways of the lungs and can lead to life-threatening infections, scarring, and decreased lung function.

About a year and a half ago Ashley began writing an online blog designed to let her friends know what she was facing with this disease.  She tells us what motivated her to begin the blog.

Ashley says she never expected the blog to become what it has become.

She says her blog is now available as a book, thanks to the prodding of her friends.

She says she never would have believed that she’d be writing a book.

Ballou-Bonnema talks about where her book is available.

To read Ashley Ballou Bonnema’s online blog, click here.

For her website, and information on how to order her new book, click here.

Firefighters Extinguish Snowmobile Blaze

Sheldon, Iowa — A snowmobile in a building was damaged in a fire in Sheldon on Sunday afternoon.
Sheldon Fire New Engine 1
Fire Company Chief Jerry Meyer says that about 1 PM the Sheldon Fire Company was called to the report at 710 Second Avenue. That address is that of Heartland Steel — the former Hamill Motors building.

Meyer says when firefighters arrived, smoke was seen coming out of an overhead door.

Using water with foam, firefighters had the fire under control within about 5 minutes after the initial attack, he says.

The snowmobile sustained heavy damage and the ceiling above it had some light charring and smoke damage, says Meyer.

He says the fire started while a person was working on the snowmobile.

Meyer says no injuries were reported.

He says the Fire Company responded with about 12 firefighters and was on scene for about a half hour.