Thursday, November 15 , 2018, 2:57 am | Fair 44º


Montecito Fire Protection District Releases Christmas Tree Safety Tips

After a Montecito estate fire that investigators suspect started in a Christmas tree, authorities remind people to be careful with holiday decorations

A tree in flames during a demonstration at the annual Solvang Christmas Tree Burn. Click to view larger
A tree in flames during a demonstration at the annual Solvang Christmas Tree Burn.  (Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

With Christmas around the counter, ensuring a fire-safe holiday season tops the wish list of local fire crews.

A blaze that investigators believe started in a Christmas tree at a Montecito estate on Sunday night has sparked the Montecito Fire Protection District to remind residents to take precautions for tree and holiday decorations safety. 

Trees can be a primary source of fuel in a fire, according to Joyce Reed, a spokeswoman for the district. 

Christmas trees were the item first ignited in an estimated average of 210 reported home structure fires annually, resulting in an average of six civilian deaths and 16 civilian fire injuries each year, and $16.2 million in property damage, according to the U. S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System and the National Fire Protection Association in 2010-2014.

Fire officials recommend the following precautions:

» Unlike incandescent bulbs, which generate most of their energy in heat, LEDs are cool to the touch — which also indicates greater energy-efficiency. LEDs are made with epoxy lenses, not glass, and are more durable. 

» When hanging lights outdoors, use a wooden or fiberglass ladder. 

» Never connect more than three strands of incandescent lights together. 

» Inspect each electrical decoration for cracked or damaged sockets, loose or bare wires, or loose connections, which may cause a serious shock or start a fire. 

» Follow the manufacturer’s use and care instructions that accompany electrical decorations. 

» Avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many decorations or electrical devices. They can overheat and cause a fire. 

» Do not use an extension cord to plug in a power strip. Instead, use a strip that will reach directly to the outlet. 

» Make sure that cords are not pinched in doors, windows, or under heavy furniture, which could damage the cord’s insulation. 

» Do not mount or support light strings in a way that might damage the cord’s insulation. 

» Always unplug electrical decorations before replacing bulbs or fuses. 

» Turn off all indoor and outdoor electrical decorations before leaving home or going to sleep. 

» Never drape anything over a light bulb or lamp shade. 

» Avoid using candles when possible. Consider using battery-operated candles in place of traditional candles. 

» Never leave an open flame unattended. Keep burning candles within sight. 

» Extinguish all candles before you leave the room or go to bed. 

» Place lighted candles away from combustible material and areas where they might be knocked over. 

» Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. 

» Keep candles away from other decorations and wrapping paper. Do not burn wrapping paper as a means of disposal. 

The district also provided these safety guidelines to help prevent electrical and fire hazards:

» When purchasing a tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree will stay green longer and be less of a fire hazard than a dry tree. 

» Cut 1-2 inches from the base of the trunk immediately before placing the tree in the stand and filling with water to ensure water absorption. 

» Because heated rooms dry out live trees rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water by refilling daily. 

» When purchasing an artificial tree, look for a “fire resistant” label, which indicates that the tree is more resistant to burning.

» Don’t use electrical ornaments or light strings on artificial trees with metallic leaves or branch coverings. 

» Place your tree at least 3 feet away from all heat sources, including fireplaces, radiators, and space heaters. 

» When decorating a tree, only use non-combustible or flame-resistant materials. 

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

A structure fire that may have started in a Christmas tree damaged an estate on Cold Springs Road in Montecito late Sunday. Click to view larger
A structure fire that may have started in a Christmas tree damaged an estate on Cold Springs Road in Montecito late Sunday. (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)

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