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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Firefighters urge caution with Christmas trees, holiday lights

  • With Christmas drawing closer, Shawnee Fire Marshal Rob Rusk said fire crews haven’t responded to any fires relating to holiday decorations or Christmas trees, and they hope to keep it that way.
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    With Christmas drawing closer, Shawnee Fire Marshal Rob Rusk said fire crews haven’t responded to any fires relating to holiday decorations or Christmas trees, and they hope to keep it that way.
     
    Rusk said homes with live Christmas trees are the biggest worry as those trees can dry out fast and quickly become a fire hazard.
     
    “Keep trees moist,” he said, encouraging everyone to keep plenty of water in the base of live trees, especially if the tree has been up a while already.
     
    “Trees are getting dry — they’re meant to be kept a week or two,” Rusk said, also encouraging residents not to procrastinate taking that tree down after the holidays.
     
    “Don’t hold on to it too long — the drier they get, the easier it is to ignite them.”
     
    Tecumseh Fire Chief Aaron Williams agrees.
     
    “Christmas trees are getting to the end of their life expectancy,” Williams said. He also encourages residents to get them out of the house right after Christmas.
     
    While Tecumseh hasn’t had any fire reports relating to trees or holiday decorations this year, Williams said they did have a house fire in 2009 that was caused by a Christmas tree.
     
    In addition to keeping live trees moist, it’s also critical they remain away from heaters and fireplaces, he said, and not be near floor furnaces where needles from the tree can fall.
     
    Rusk said many of the same tips can apply to artificial Christmas trees
     
    For either type of tree, safety with holiday lighting is also important.
     
    Rusk said electrical cords can be a trip hazard as well as a fire danger, so he encourages residents not to run cords through windows or doorways and not to overload them or use splitters.
     
    According to the National Fire Protection Association, some type of electrical problem causes one out of every three home Christmas tree fires.
     
    Other facts about home holiday fires:
     
    • Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious. On average, one of every 40 reported home structure Christmas tree fires results in a death compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home structure fires.
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    • A heat source too close to the tree causes roughly one in every six of Christmas tree fires.
     
    • More than half (56 percent) of home candle fires occur when something that can catch on fire is too close to the candle.
     
    • December is the peak time of year for home candle fires. In December, 11 percent of home candle fires began with decorations compared to 4 percent the rest of the year.
     
    And along with the safety of holiday decorations, firefighters remind residents to be cautious with home heating sources, especially with space heaters.
     
    There’s also a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from heaters, so crews suggest residents install a carbon monoxide detector in their home and be aware of symptoms relating to carbon monoxide issues.
     
    If someone is having headaches and weakness, blurred vision, is sleeping a lot, or is maybe just “not feeling right,” Fire Chief David Short said they should get out of the house and into fresh air.
     
    Anyone with concerns that their home heaters are giving off carbon monoxide should have that heater checked by calling the fire department or Oklahoma Natural Gas, Short said.
     
    “Don’t take for granted that everything is vented properly,” Short said.
     
     
     
     
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