The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

December 2, 2012

Guard against holiday fire hazards


DANVILLE — Candles and fireplaces are well-known decorations people use to create ambiance in their homes during the holiday season. They are also one of the biggest causes of fires during the holiday season.

Danville already has seen the effects of a candle with a weekend fire on Nov. 24 in a first-floor apartment at 1224 Garden Drive. An unattended candle caused a fire that resulted in $18,000 in damage.

Danville Assistant Fire Chief Tom Pruitt said the department typically sees a spike in fires caused by candles during the holidays. Statistics show that candle fires double during December, compared to the rest of the year.

“If you’re going to burn candles, only adults should be around setting it up,” he said. “Don’t set them near decorations or anything flammable.”

Gary Wright, chief of the Westville Fire Department, said candles are always a big concern this time of year.

“You have to be aware they’re there,” he said.

He also pointed to fireplaces as a concern, especially since the weather is continuing to turn colder.

“People with fireplaces need to have routine maintenance,” he said. “Nobody thinks about cleaning them out.”

Without proper cleaning, chimneys can accumulate deposits of creosote on the inner tile surfaces, flue linters and stove pipes and create a fire hazard over time.

Although not the most common, Christmas tree fires tend to be the most serious, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The organization indicated that one of every 18 Christmas tree fires resulted in a death. Nationally, fire departments responded to an average of 240 blazes involving Christmas trees from 2005-09.

Pruitt said Danville has been lucky to not see many Christmas tree fires during the years, noting the trend toward artificial trees has played a direct role in that.

“If you’ve ever seen a real tree go up in flames, they will go from zero to fully involved in 4-5 seconds,” Pruitt said. “When they go up, it’s like gasoline.”

He stressed homeowners who use a live Christmas tree in their home should keep it watered constantly and keep heat sources — such as candles — away from the tree.