Keep memories of the holiday happy by following SPFD safety recommendations
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: December 21, 2012
Perhaps the biggest fire danger in American homes right now is the traditional Christmas tree, followed closely by candles, fireplaces and wrapping paper.
The Santa Paula Fire Department wants everyone to have a safe, fire and hazard free holiday and is offering tips to ensure your holiday is a happy one.
Santa Paula Fire Captain Steve Lazenby, the city’s emergency preparedness coordinator, said, “The first and main safety tip that comes to my mind this season is that people need to maintain their live and cut Christmas trees to prevent them from drying out.” If a tree does dry out and is ignited, it only takes a few moments for it to explode in a fireball that has to be seen to be believed.
“A nice visual reminder of the dangers of a dry Christmas tree can be found on YouTube,” said Lazenby, where the public service announcement by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology shows the incredible speed of such a tree fire. The scenario of the staged demonstration video involves a short in electrical tree lights, a common cause of tree fires. The blaze - the tree completely explodes into flame in only four seconds - gushes across the ceiling. Smoke engulfs the screen frame from the top down until it is all black - and it only takes 46 seconds. See for yourself at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2dNN2waoSw.
Fire Chief Rick Araiza said keeping the SPFD engines in the station is always a goal of the Fire Department and Building & Safety. “We really ask that citizens be extra, extra careful over the holiday season,” and Araiza said although great concern centers on live trees that can become dried up and explode into fire, candles and electrical cords can also be highly dangerous.
“Trees, lights and candles become more prominent in Santa Paula homes this time of year,” but, said Araiza, “it is important not to overlook the dangers that holiday decorations can present. Santa Paula Fire Code has specific requirements about the use of live trees and other Christmas decorations.”
Cut root trees, including Christmas trees, are permitted in single-family homes and townhouses, but the fire code prohibits such trees in common areas of apartment buildings and condos. Other places where cut trees are banned are in restaurants, theaters, daycare centers, churches, residential hotels/motels, schools, stores - anywhere where groups of people gather, unless the building has approved sprinklers. Sprinklers don’t matter to hospitals or nursing homes, where cut trees are banned altogether.
“If you choose a natural-cut tree, make sure you are taking care of it,” including watering daily or even placing in sand that is kept wet. A tree should always be kept away from a heat source, noted Araiza. “Never use an open flame such as a candle on a tree and, once the holidays are over, remove the tree safely from your home” and recycle it as soon as possible curbside or at the city drop off center.
Artificial trees are safer, but not foolproof. And no matter what kind of tree you select, make sure it’s in a sturdy stand and only use approved lights with a recognized label - usually UL or Underwriters Laboratories is easy to spot on the container - demonstrating the lights are safe.
Candles as well as electrical cords that are frayed are always a concern, and Araiza said any wrapped present - or other potentially flammable items - must be placed away from any source of fire or high heat, including wall and floor heaters. Wrapping paper and boxes absolutely must not be burned in the fireplace.
“We want everyone to have a happy and safe holiday,” said Araiza. “All is takes is some common sense, being aware and being careful. Santa Paula Fire wants your memories of the holiday to always be happy ones.”