Local fire officials advise on holiday safety

Flues, lights, dry trees and space heaters leading cause of wintertime fires

As Callaway County residents hang their stockings by the chimney this year, local firefighters want to make sure they do so with care.

Local fire agencies identified several winter fire hazards that can lead to an increase in residential structure blazes during the holiday season, ranging from poorly-cleaned chimney flues to unwatered Christmas trees.

“A lot of what you see this time of year is flue fires,” said Fulton Fire Department Captain Brian Schmidt. “People aren’t getting their chimneys cleaned out. Always have a certified chimney sweep check them out before the start of the season — just like any heating system in the home, they need to be checked out.”

The U.S. Fire Administration’s website, www.usfa.fema.gov, states that “from Dec. 24-26, fire deaths, injuries and dollar loss increase an average of 50 percent, 61 percen, and 43 percent, respectively.” It also notes that Christmas trees are in one-third of all households and fire risks increases as they dry out, December has the highest increase in candle fires, and cooking fires increase on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The Fire Administration also estimated in 2010 that winter residential fires “result in an estimated average of approximately 945 deaths, 3,825 injuries, and $1.7 million in property loss each year.”

New Bloomfield Fire Chief Travis Bell said that lights were also a priority.

“I tell everyone to turn the Christmas tree lights off when they go to bed,” Bell said, adding that exterior lights should also be installed correctly. “Some people run them almost 24 hours, especially when it’s dark. LED lights are burning cooler so people don’t worry about that, but it’s still a concern for me.”

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