According to the fire report, the owner of the mobile home, on the 600 block of Pine Street, woke up around 4:20 a.m. to the smell of smoke. She determined the Christmas tree in the living room had caught fire and tried to put it out. The fire did not go out, but the tree appears to have fallen onto the couch, which also caught fire. The owner then fled.
The alarm call went out at 4:22 a.m., according to the report. Firefighters were on the scene in less than five minutes and quickly got the blaze under control. They remained on the scene until 5:59 a.m.
The fire severely damaged the living room area where it started, and there was severe water damage in that room and an adjacent bedroom closet. Severe heat and smoke damage are listed for the rest of the mobile home.
According to Fire Department Capt. Ron Goodenough, the owner of the mobile home is staying with family members. The mobile home was insured.
Goodenough said it appeared to have been an artificial tree that burned in this case, although flame retardant plastic trees are available.
This time of year is typically busy for fire departments, but Goodenough did provide some tips for holiday safety.
Specifically dealing with Christmas trees, Goodenough said “any string of lights with worn, frayed or broken cords or loose bulb connections should not be used. Always unplug Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to sleep (and) never use lit candles to decorate a tree. (Always place candles) well away from tree branches.”
Other pieces of advice include: “Try to keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water daily. Do not purchase a tree that is dry or dropping needles (and) choose a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over. When purchasing an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled as fire-retardant. Make sure the tree is at least three feet from any heat source and try to position it near an outlet so that cords are not running long distances. Do not place the tree where it will block any exits.”
After the holidays are over, “safely dispose of the tree before it stops dropping needles. Dried out trees are highly flammable and should not be left in a house or garage, or placed against the house.”
Holiday fire hazards are not limited to those associated with Christmas trees, however. According to a second handout, “unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the United States. When cooking for holiday visitors, remember to keep an eye on the range.”
Entertaining smokers also requires some caution. “Provide plenty of large, deep ashtrays for guests who smoke and check them quickly,” according to the handout. “Cigarette butts can smolder in the trash and cause a fire, so completely douse cigarette butts with water before discarding. After a party, always check on, between and under upholstery and cushions and inside trash cans for cigarette butts that may be smoldering. Keep matches and lighters up high, out of sight and out of reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet. When smokers visit your home, ask that they keep smoking materials with them.”
Another area of concern is candle fires, which peak in the month of December, with nearly twice the average number of incidents in other months. Some 44 percent of candle fires start in the bedroom, according to the handout.
“Keep candles away from items that can catch fire and use candleholders that are sturdy, won’t tip over, are made from a material that can’t burn and are large enough to collect dripping wax. Don’t place lit candles in windows, where blinds and curtains can close over them (and) place candleholders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface. Do not use candles in places where they could be knocked over by children or pets. Keep candles and all open flames away from flammable liquids, avoid candles with combustible items embedded in them and extinguish all candles when leaving the room or going to sleep.”
Lastly, “check smoke detectors at least twice per year and test them at least monthly. It’s a good idea to check them at daylight savings time when the clocks are turned back and moved forward. Remember, smoke detectors save lives!”
Contact Chris Norwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.