Celebrate safety for the holidays

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 21, 2002

Holidays are a time of celebration and that means decorations that often include Christmas tree and other decorative lighting and candles. Both provide an increased risk of fire in the home, and Suffolk’s Emergency Management Coordinator Captain Jim Judkins offered some safety tips to insure a safe holiday. &uot;In 1998, Christmas trees were the first item ignited in 300 home fires, resulting in 11 injuries and $8.4 million in direct property damages,&uot; Judkins said. &uot;The leading cause of Christmas tree fires and property damage was short circuits or ground fault problems.&uot;

In this category, electrical failure other than short circuit ranked second in number of fires, injuries and property damage with the exception of the &uot;other known&uot; category.

&uot;Cords and plugs have proven to be the leading type of equipment involved in the ignition of Christmas trees,&uot; he said. &uot;Unspecified short circuit arc accounted for an estimated 100 fires per year, fortunately with no civilian deaths, but also 14 civilian injuries, and $3.3 million in direct property damage from 1994-1998.&uot;

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Judkins also suggested that when decorating a Christmas tree, larger tree lights should have some type of reflector rather than a bare bulb and all lights should be listed by a testing laboratory.

&uot;And, don’t ever use electric lights on a metal tree,&uot; he said. &uot;Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use tree lights, and if you find a string of lights with worn, frayed or broken cords or loose bulb connections, do not use them. Replace them with new lighting.&uot;

Judkins, who is a captain with the Suffolk Fire Department, also said it is extremely important that lights be unplugged before leaving home or going to sleep, and never use candles to decorate a tree. If using candles in other areas of the home, keep them well away from holiday greenery and the tree.

To further reduce the danger of fire, keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water daily. Do not purchase a tree that is dry or dropping needles. Also, choose a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over, and make sure the tree is at least three feet (one meter) away from any heat source.

Judkins also said try to position a Christmas tree near an outlet so that cords are not running long distances, and do not place the tree where it may block exits.

For more information on how to have a fire safe holiday, call the Fire Prevention Bureau at 539-8789.