Lawton, Okla._The Lawton Fire Marshal's office wants you to be safe this holiday season, so they are offering advice on keeping your celebrations, and decorations from turning into a disaster.
Assistant Fire Marshal Ray Brown says unfortunately, fires caused by faulty lighting decorations and cooking accidents are rampant this time of year. To make matters worse, these fires are avoidable.
National statistics show that during Christmas time there are about 240 fires every year, with an average of 21 injuries and four deaths. Twenty-percent of those fires involve Christmas trees and the decorations that are on them. By adding some simple steps to your holiday decorating routine, you can avoid becoming a part of that startling statistic.
Christmas trees symbolize the joy of the holiday season. Although they look beautiful, they can pose some real dangers, like fire risks. Especially the live ones. Assistant Fire Marshal Ray Brown says live trees need special care to avoid a fire.
"They have a sap in them that gets dry easier. They're more flammable than artificial or fire-resistant tree. When you buy a tree it needs to be sticky on the bottom, before you leave it you need to tap it on the ground. If needles come out it's to dry to take home," Brown said.
Brown says live trees need about a gallon of water each day to stay moist and will be less likely to catch fire. Whether or not you're using a live or fire-resistant tree, Brown says safeguarding the lights you string on it is just as important.
"It needs to have a UL-stamp. If it has a green UL stamp, then it's meant for interior use only. If it has a red one, then it is rated for interior or exterior use. An interior only is going to have a higher chance of shorting out, causing fire, shocks and electrocution," Brown said.
Brown says you should also avoid plugging too many cords into a socket, and use a circuit-breaker extension cord.
"If the lights draw too much and something shorts out, that will trip the breaker and stop the electricity and stop the potential for a chance of fire," Brown said.
He says these tips are important. He's seen first-hand what can happen if they're ignored.
"Someone was doing some cooking, they got a phone call, they left the kitchen, they forgot about the food being left on the stove. After we got the fire out, I remember standing in the kitchen and watching the snow fall through the ceiling," Brown said.
He also says you should avoid placing your tree or gifts near doorways or other exits.
Brown also wants to warn people about candle safety. He says to make sure they're not placed near Christmas trees or flammable surfaces. Also, make sure they are in tip-proof, fire- resistant containers.