Stories from the Street: Prevent Next Year's Fire Today

If you’ve been watching the local news for the last two months, you’ve probably noticed there is rarely a day or week that goes by without mention of a house or apartment fire. Naturally, coming from the fire service, I have an interest in such things and made a phone call to Fire Marshall Robbie Dawson to gather some information for this article.

Many of these fires around the holidays were determined to be of electrical origin. Christmas decorations, extension cords, multi outlet devices and improper household wiring were the most common causes. Some of the extension cords were previously damaged cords which were repaired by the homeowner. These tend to heat up at the point the repair was made and that’s where the fire starts. Some cords were too small to handle all the electrical devices connected to them, causing them to overheat and ignite nearby combustibles. Some of the decorations were old and should have been replaced with safer, newer decorations.

I’ve been to a few Christmas tree related fires, and it takes very little heat to ignite all the light weight combustibles placed around the base of the tree, like presents, skirts and such. The fire can grow from a spark to fully on fire in less than two minutes. A Google search for videos on the Internet will show just how quickly this can happen.

Here are a few things you can do today which will prevent next year’s fires from starting:

  • Dispose of old electrical decorations and replace with new ones;
  • Dispose of old or damaged electrical extension cords and replace with heavier gauge cords;
  • Never run extension cords under the carpet or floor mats (these get damaged and heat up to the point of ignition); and

Make sure your electrical cords, multi outlet devices, appliances, etc. have the UL (Underwriting Laboratories) listing, indicating it was safety tested.

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