Live Christmas trees fuel fires

As homeowners decorate their homes for the holidays, AMR Rural Metro offers tips to help prevent home fires during the season.

AMR Rural Metro Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Bureau personnel showed what could happen in an electrical fire during a demonstration at its headquarters at 10140 Gallows Point Drive, Tuesday, Dec. 6.

The most common hazards during the holiday season are overburdening the electrical system, using damaged electrical cords, leaving cooking unattended, allowing live Christmas trees to dry out and not disposing of wood or coals in appropriate receptacles, Colin Cumesty, Farragut fire inspector with Rural Metro Fire Department, said.

Since live trees suffered stress because of the draught this year, Cumesty warned homeowners decorating with a fresh-cut live tree to make sure they are watering the trees daily.

He recommended cutting at least 1-2 inches off the bottom of the trunk to ensure there is proper water absorption through the trunk, then placing the tree in a secure stand and filing the stand base with water.

Cumesty also recommended monitoring the moisture level within the Christmas tree routinely by grasping a branch and sliding one’s hands off the branch.

“If needles come off the branch in your hand, your tree need additional water,” he said.

To avoid electrical fires, Cumesty advised homeowners to make sure they are not plugging too many electrical devices into a single outlet, whether that be lights around the home or outside of the home.

“We would always recommend using a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter-protected power strip rated for the load you are plugging into it and using only the outlets on the power strip. Never plug a power strip into a power strip,” he said.

Cumesty also advised homeowners to make sure they check electrical cords for any damaged, frayed or exposed wiring or damage to either end of the plugs before using them.

“If there is any damage, dispose of the affected cord and replace it with one that is in operable condition,” he said.

Cumesty also advised homeowners to make sure they never leave cooking or candles unattended and to make sure they keep small children and animals away from cooking appliances. He suggested creating a 4-foot “safety zone” around the appliances where children are told not to go.

Fireplaces and wood-burning stoves also can create fire hazards.

“Please remember to dispose of any fireplace or wood stove debris or coals in a sturdy metal container, such as a trash can, with a secure lid and have that container be at least 10-feet away from your home or anything combustible,” he said.

He reminded homeowners to make sure the batteries in the smoke alarms are working and that the alarms themselves are operational. If a family still has a home fire, Cumesty said there should be an escape plan in place.