Fire department warns of dangers associated with season

Dec. 17, 2012 @ 08:45 PM

Fire officials throughout the Tri-County area are warning residents to be aware of possible causes of fire during the holiday season.

As the weather turns colder, the use of heating equipment and fireplaces increases.

Warren County Fire Marshal Doug Young said it is important for people using stoves to keep the chimney clean.

“If they don’t know how to do it, there is professional help available,” he said. “We see chimney fires and attic fires because of defective chimneys.”

Granville County Fire Marshal Doug Logan said, “Burning wrapping paper in a fireplace is a no-no.”

The coating on the paper will coat the chimney with creosote, he said.

“Chimney fires become house fires,” Logan said.

Care should be taken when portable heaters are used to keep the house warm. Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications at the National Fire Prevention Association, said, “Space heaters clearly present the greatest risk of home heating fires.”

Young said, “Never leave them unattended. With electric heaters, use only approved cords. Never use an extension cord.”

Gas heaters and even fireplaces can be the source of carbon monoxide, which is an invisible killer.

“Carbon monoxide is a concern any time a fossil fuel is burned,” Logan said. “It’s an odorless, colorless gas. The human eye and nose cannot detect it. We highly recommend a working carbon monoxide detector.”

Christmas brings another set of hazards related to decorations and Christmas trees.

Jon Juntunen, fire and safety educator for the Henderson Fire Department, suggested precautions for people as they decorate Christmas trees.

“There is indoor wiring and outdoor wiring,” he said. “Be sure to use the proper wiring.”

Logan cautioned against overloading wiring. All those beautiful Christmas lights can become a hazard when too many lights are plugged into one circuit, he said.

The NFPA estimates that one-third of Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems.

Juntunen said real trees should be placed a safe distance from any source of heat, like the fireplace, radiator, heat vent or space heater.

And he emphasized that water should be added at the base every day. Cut trees dry out and become highly flammable very quickly.

Logan said, “It only takes seconds for a tree to be fully involved.”

NFPA emphatically warns in a statement, “Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.”

Young said every home should have smoke detectors to provide early warning of fire. The Warren County Department of Emergency services has smoke detectors available. Warren County residents can obtain one free while the supply lasts by calling (252) 257-2666.

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.