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Katy Authorities Warn of Home Fires from Holiday Decorations


KATY MAGAZINE NEWS

November 30, 2020

By Natalie Cook Clark


Holiday decorations bring joy and create a festive mood. However, over a thousand house fires a year reportedly begin with decorations. Katy officials discuss the area’s leading cause of fires and offer advice so families can stay safe.


According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI,) over 1,000 home fires per year begin with decorations. These fires cause an annual average of eight deaths, 54 injuries, and $19.1 million in property damage.


Holiday light displays and decorations, while festive and fun, present a fire risk to Katy homes.



“We didn't see fires related to say lights or trees,” says Jason Tharp, division chief of Community Risk Reduction and Public Information Officer for Harris County No. 48. “However, it's still important to remind the community how hazardous it is to have a dried-out tree, broken wires on lights, and overloaded electrical sockets.”



Seasonal Fire Prevention Tips

  • Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.

  • Keep lit candles away from decorations and other things that can burn.

  • Make sure you are using lights properly. Example: Use lights labeled for “Outdoor Use” outside, etc.

  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections.

  • Read manufacturer’s instructions for the number of light strands to connect.

  • Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.

  • Keep decorations away from windows and doors.

  • Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2” from the base of the trunk.

  • Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents, or lights.

  • Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.

  • Water live trees every day.

  • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

Many local fire stations will do free home inspections like HCESD 48. Contact your station with questions and inquire about an inspection.


Regular HVAC Service Recommended

On many of the Home Safety Surveys I conduct, I ask the resident when the last time their system has been serviced and cleared by an HVAC technician,” says Tharp. “On average 75% of the residents have not received any service unless there was an existing issue. Other residents state they have only changed the filter and no other service has been completed.”


In addition to getting the HVAC inspected each season, residents should also have their fireplaces cleaned and inspected too.


“We understand that this is Texas and the use may be very minimal, however, it is important to note that birds and other small animals make nests near the top of the chimney,” explains Tharp. “These animals can compromise insulation leaving it vulnerable to embers traveling up the chimney to the compromised area leading to a fire.”


Birds and small animals that can make nests can also create poor ventilation that can cause carbon monoxide seepage within the home. Another reason that an inspection should be done each year. In addition, it’s always important to check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors annually.


While the holiday season is fun, it is also a time to decorate and cook safely. If you have any questions, please contact your local fire department.


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