Firefighters urge precaution to prevent holiday fires

A bit of care can prevent your Christmas from going up in smoke. As the holiday season gets into full swing, local fire offic
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

A bit of care can prevent your Christmas from going up in smoke.

As the holiday season gets into full swing, local fire officials warn people to take the necessary precautions to prevent fires.

Gary Guendelsberger, Perkins Township fire marshal, offers a few safety tips:

n Buyers of artificial trees should be sure to purchase a fire-resistant tree.

n Live trees should be checked for freshness. The fresher the better.

"Make sure the needles are soft and don't fall off," he said. "That's a signal the tree is potentially a hazard."

n Keep trees watered daily as a dry tree can burn in seconds.

Most tree fires occur on or after Christmas, Guendelsberger said, adding that live trees should be taken down as soon as possible after the holiday.

While Christmas tree fires are rare nowadays, calls for carbon monoxide leaks have been a problem, said Rudy Ruiz, fire safety inspector for the Sandusky Fire Department.

"People don't get their furnaces checked," Ruiz said, adding that they should.

Other fire safety tips include keeping trees away from exits and making sure indoor lights are used inside and outside lights outside. Decorators should also be careful to not overload circuits by connecting too many strings of lights together, Guendelsberger said.

Candles should be kept from windows and space heaters need a 3-foot space around them to prevent fires, Guendelsberger said.

People should use approved lighting for both inside and outside and be careful not to connect too many light sets together, added Shane Cartmill, spokesman for the Ohio Division of State Fire Marshal. Also, avoid using staples to attach lights.

"Use hangers instead," Cartmill said.

Ohio Christmas tree fires:

* 2006: Eight fires, $120,500 in damage, no deaths and no injuries

* 2005: Four fires, $200,000 in damage, two deaths and three injuries

* 2004: Eight fires, $275,800 in damage, no deaths and no injuries

* 2003: Four fires, $215,000 in damage, seven deaths and no injuries

Source: Ohio Division of State Fire Marshal

Causes of Christmas tree fires

* Electrical problems: 43 percent

* Heat source problems: 22 percent

* Arson: 10 percent

* Candles: 8 percent

* Children playing with electric around tree: 7 percent

* Other causes: 10 percent

Source: Ohio Division of State Fire Marshal