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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The holidays are a time for celebration, and decorations are a classic staple when it comes to the festivities; however, if not properly managed, decorations can turn dangerous.
Old lights, dry trees, space heaters are three things Huntsville Fire Marshal Dan Wilkerson says could be a detriment to the holiday celebrations. He says first and foremost, make sure your lights are in check, especially if they’re older.
“Usually you can only use 2-3 strings together,” Wilkerson said. “Some of the older lights create a lot of heat. So make sure there’s no combustibles around, falling leaves.”
Wilkerson said to keep your tree, real or fake, away from fireplaces, heaters or anything that could catch a flame.
Tree hydration is another factor. Wilkerson said to make sure to water a real tree once a day. Wilkerson said it is astonishing to see how quickly a dry tree catches fire and that could engulf an entire room in a few minutes.
“[You] could potentially lose the whole house due to it because it is a fast fire, almost like a grease fire on the stove,” he said. “You want to use newer lights on a real Christmas tree. Those older lights have been known to start fires.”
Huntsville Fire’s most common fire call is for a kitchen fire. During the holidays many spend more time cooking, oftentimes with added distractions like family members or other chores.
“We always want to remind people when they’re cooking to keep an eye on what they fry and to stay in the kitchen when you’re cooking,” he said.
Space heaters must be very carefully placed in order to be safe, Wilkerson stated.
“You want to make sure your space heater is plugged directly into a wall, nothing’s around the space heater, you have two to three feet around that space heater. If you have kids or pets that run around the house, we don’t recommend using space heaters,” Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson said fires have also been started through carelessness with the fire place. He says wood-burning fire embers must be discarded in a metal bin with a lid; otherwise, a fire could start days after it was originally lit if embers are disturbed and touch a flammable surface.
He also suggests watching candles. Make sure they are on a flat, flame retardant surface and far away from any flammable objects.
“Most of it can be avoided, easily,” Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson added it is crucial to make sure all of these potential hazards are never left on while the homeowner is away or sleeping; this includes decorative lights, space heaters, and candles.