By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula Times
Deck the Halls, Don’t Burn Them is the advice of the Santa Paula Fire Department now urging citizens to be sure to follow basic safety guidelines to ensure the holiday season does not bring tragedy or loss.
Over the years there have been several home fires in Santa Paula around the holidays, including one incident that occurred when wrapped gifts left too close to a floor heater ignited while the occupants of the residence were at church.
Perhaps the biggest fire danger in American homes right now is the traditional Christmas tree, followed closely by candles, fireplaces and wrapping paper.
According to Fire Chief Rick Araiza, “People must 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 can cause a major fire emergency in less than a minute.
Araiza said that following basic safety guidelines could prevent serious electrical or fire hazards during the holidays.
Water your live tree daily or keep it in sand that is kept wet, but do keep in mind that a tree that is drying out might appear fine. Dropping needles indicate the tree is drying out and if so, take it down and dispose of it outside.
Keep your tree at least three feet away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, candles or heat vents. Do not let your tree whether artificial or live block exits or impede access.
Light sets should be checked for frayed or damaged wiring before using and never use outdoor lights inside or inside lights outside. Connect no more than three mini-light sets for decorating.
Always turn off holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.
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.
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 do not matter to hospitals or nursing homes, where cut trees are banned altogether.
“We want everyone to have a happy and safe holiday,” said Araiza. “All it takes is some common sense, being aware and being careful. Santa Paula Fire wants your memories of the holiday to always be happy ones.”
Cal-Fire has general holiday tree safety tips including selecting a live tree for purchase:
To see the fire danger between a dry tree and one watered regularly visit: