The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

December 22, 2013

Be careful with lights, candles, fire officials say

By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item

LEWISBURG — HUMMELS WHARF — This holiday season, fire officials are hoping some quick tips will help prevent home fires, which tend to rise at this time of year.

“In the past, yes, there has been an increase (in holiday fires),” said Hummels Wharf Fire Company Deputy Chief John Grove. “A lot have to do with electrical stuff and with lights.”

December is the high point of the year for home candle fires and on average, one out of every 40 home structure Christmas tree fires results in a fatality, compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home structure fires for other causes, according to the U.S. Fire Association.

There are some easy ways to combat these fires, Grove said.

“A lot of them are very simple, and we simply overlook them,” he said.

For Christmas trees, the National Fire Prevention Association has several tips. Make sure artificial trees are fire-retardant and fresh-cut trees are watered daily. Trees should be placed at least three feet from heat sources.

“You need to make sure you’re following instructions,” said Harold E. Erdley Jr., a sergeant with the William Cameron Engine Company in Lewisburg.

The association also recommends checking all electrical decorations and cords to make sure they’re not frayed or worn. Erdley also warns against creating “the octopus,” which is multiple plugs coming out of all sides of a single outlet, he said.

“Generally in older homes, electrical systems may not be hardy enough to handle that,” he said.

Upgrading to LED lights may be a good move for people who are into light displays, since they use less electricity, making them safer than older, more traditional lights, Grove said.

“LEDs don’t take anywhere near the electricity (of older lights),” he said.

Candles also are more common around the holidays and should not be left lighted in a room, Erdley said.

“They’re safe as long as you’re in the same room,” he said.

Erdley reiterated that many of these tips are general guidelines that are common sense, but people may need reminding during the holiday season.

“It’s relatively routine stuff,” he said.