“With the new LED (light emitting diode) Christmas lights, they don’t get as hot as the old bulbs did,” said Jimmy Bearden, Carrollton fire chief. “We don’t see the problems from overheated lighting like we did 15 or 20 years ago.”
Carroll County Fire Chief Tracy Smith also noted that almost all lighting now has UL (Universal Laboratories, an independent electrical product tester) approval.
However, Smith emphasized that families who use live trees, need to keep them watered regularly to avoid having them dry out and become more combustible.
Bearden said many people are getting away from live trees and going toward artificial trees which have been fireproofed.
Open fires in fireplaces and space heaters can cause problems if they are too close to combustible material.
“What we always tell people is to keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from a heat source, whether it be a fireplace, an insert or a space heater,” Smith said.
Bearden said fire places and wood heating are not as popular as they used to be, and as a result, the department has fewer stovepipe and chimney fires.
Bearden said the new infrared electric space heaters are safer than ordinary electric and gas heaters because their cabinets don’t get hot. However, he said, like any heater, the three-foot combustible rule needs to be followed.
Christmas candles are popular during this season and the fire chiefs urged people to practice caution with candles, since they are open flames that never should be left unattended.
One thing both chiefs highly recommend is to have a working smoke detector, with good batteries.
“If you didn’t change the batteries last month when the time changed, now would be the time to do it,” Smith said.
Bearden said his department gives out lists of holiday safety tips from the U.S. Fire Administration to help people avoid fires. They include:
• don’t put your live Christmas tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks;
• place trees away from heat sources, including fireplaces or heat vents, which will dry out the tree and cause it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks;
• keep live tree stands filled with water at all times;
• use only non-flammable decorations;
• don’t link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it’s safe. String of lights should be connected to an extension cord before plugging the cord into an outlet;
• avoid using lit candles, consider battery-operated flameless candles, which can look, smell and feel like real candles;
• never put wrapping paper in the fireplace, since it can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers that may cause a chimney fire;
• and ensure that your Christmas tree and other decorations don’t block exit ways.
More tips on holiday fire safety are available at www.usfa.fema.gov.