Holiday hazards go up in smoke

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS

Tucumcari Fire Chief Mike Cherry said he doesn’t hate candles – he just prefers when they don’t burn the house down.

“They can really be dangerous,” Cherry said of the often multicolored, frequently peppermint-scented popular signs of the holidays topped with live flame.

More than 10,000 candle-related fires occur each year, according to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, in part because so many holiday rites use them, and in another part because they are not closely enough monitored, the commission said.

“Candle lighting ceremonies during Advent, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are beautiful traditions,” said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown. “But keep matches, lighters and candles away from children and never leave burning candles unattended.”

Although candles play a big part in burning down the house, they are not the only hazard during the holiday season.

The CPSC reports hospital emergency rooms are annually packed with about 8,700 people during the holidays for falls, cuts, shocks and other injuries related to holiday lights, decorations and Christmas trees.

They say the tree itself is involved in about 400 fires per year which breaks down to an average of up to 20 deaths, 70 injuries and more than $15 million in property loss and damage.

Further, the CPSC said they did a spot check of holiday lights at stores across the nation and found 320,398 lighting units that did not meet safety standards.

Cherry takes the holiday hazards one step further. He said it’s not just the stretch of Christmas that causes fires, but ‘tis the season in general.

“It’s the winter season,” Cherry said. “Fires are a problem every year.” He said the main cause continues to be overloaded electric circuits, with other hazards including electric blankets, space heaters and wood stoves.

Holiday fire safety

Choose a fresh Christmas tree.
Place the tree well away from heat sources.
Keep water in the tree stand reservoir.
Never use candles to decorate Christmas trees.
When decorating with lights, be sure to purchase only those labeled by a testing laboratory.
Check for frayed or damaged cords and replace if you find them.
Don’t overload electrical outlets, and always unplug all lights before leaving home or going to sleep.
For outside decorations, use only those lights labeled for outside use.

Source: Tucumcari Fire Dept.