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Jasper Fire Chief offers holiday safety tips

Christmas trees, overloaded plugs prime source of blazes


To see firsthand how quickly a tree can erupt, click on the photo of follow this link to see a safety video from the Fire Kills campaign on YouTube.

       REPOSTED FROM CHRISTMAS 2012     Jasper Fire Chief Steve Roper said of any calls he hates, home fires during the holidays rank at the top – especially if there are kids involved.

            Even if no one is hurt and the house isn’t seriously damaged, seeing families lose their holiday presents, and be forced to find somewhere else to stay at Christmas is hard. “The kids just don’t understand how their Christmas is suddenly over,” the fire chief said.


            Unfortunately glowing Christmas lights, especially when used on real trees, are a prime cause of home fires.

            Roper said the Jasper Fire Department has run several calls throughout the years where holiday decorations are the cause of the blaze. He said two of the main issues are overloaded electrical wiring and live Christmas trees.

            Older, larger Christmas lights draw a good bit of power and put off a surprising amount of heat. One specific cause for concern is using cheap extension cords to bring power to long strands of lights. Cheaper cords can give off a lot more heat and may not handle larger loads.

            Roper said generally in modern homes electrical fuses will blow when they are overloaded and prevent fires, but you shouldn’t count on this and in older homes, this safeguard may not be there at all. He said homeowners who use strips that allow several plugs to go into an older socket are creating a dangerous situation.

            One preventative step is to use newer decorations, particularly the LED lights. Roper said these new lights are designed to draw less power and give off much less heat. Often people don’t realize that decorations giving off constant heat are a potential source of a fire – it doesn’t take a flame. Get a flammable substance too close to a heat source for too long and there could be a fire.

            The biggest cause of concern, Roper cited, are the live trees. He said the green needles on cut trees lead people to assume they aren’t easily flammable, but this is a false perception. Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires annually across the country.

            Roper said he has fond memories of bringing home Christmas trees and doesn’t want to discourage any one from using them – so long as they are careful.

            A pine in a room can erupt into a blaze in less than ten seconds with flames shooting well above the top of the tree. When they get dry and sap is out of them, they can go up so quickly that you might think they had been doused in gas, he said.

            “I wholeheartedly support people using decorations and live trees, but please follow the guidelines,” he said.

            For trees, information provided to all fire departments suggest:

            • Be sure the tree is not already dried out before you buy it. Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches. They should not fall off easily, nor should the tree be sticky to the touch.

            • Do not place your tree close to a heat source such as a fireplace or heat vent. This will dry it out even quicker. Do not put your tree up too early or leave it any longer than necessary. Keep the stand filled with water.

            • Do not try to burn your tree in a fireplace. For Pickens residents, Keep Pickens Beautiful is offering a “Bring One for the Chipper Day,” at the parking lot of Lee Newton Park where trees can be dropped off. See People page this week for details.

             While not specific to the holidays, Roper recommends this as a good time to look over these fire safety tips:

            • Perform a smoke alarm audit. See that batteries are still good and consider changing them every time the time changes for Daylight Savings Time.

            • Make fire extinguishers handy. Be sure you know how to use your extinguisher before it’s needed.

            • Talk prevention with your kids. Roper particularly advised checking under kids’ beds or in their closets for items like matches. Often curious kids like to play with fire and knowing that it’s wrong, they will hide it.

            • Look at your home from a child’s perspective – look for dangling cords, heaters or other appliances that may entice a child to play with something that could be dangerous.

            • Avoid overloaded sockets or the use of multiple extension cords around a house. Extension cords “tacked up” to walls or run under rugs could be a potential fire hazard.

To see firsthand how quickly a tree can erupt, see this safety video from the Fire Kills campaign on youtube.

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