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The biggest mistakes that lead to Christmas fires

Posted at 8:32 AM, Nov 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-24 08:42:24-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- With the holidays right around the corner, Henrico Fire reminded those who planned to decorate to watch for fire hazards and keep safety in mind.

Battalion Chief Doug Reynolds said Henrico Fire sees an increase in calls around the holiday season.

He recommended keeping leaves out of your gutters and away from ground lights outside, and checking everything from the tree you buy, to the lights you put on it, and the extension cord attached.

For those who planned to use older lights, Reynolds recommended inspecting them to make sure there are no broken lights or cords with the wire showing.

For new lights, Reynolds recommended making sure they have a UL label, which means they've met testing standards in the United States.

He added that five strings or less should be used on the tree -- and the fewer extension cords used, the better.

"Usually when you hear the term electrical fire in a house, it is usually involving an extension cord," said Reynolds. "The big thing there -- we call it daisy-chaining. You don’t want to have two or three extension cords together. Make sure you get a good quality cord."

Reynolds also said to keep flammable objects away from heat sources, like the stockings over your fireplace.

"If you have a real tree up in your house, you want to make sure that you keep them away -- 36 inches, get yourself a yardstick -- away from any heat source. Your floor vents, electric space heaters, kerosene heaters, any of those things, and that will help you have a safer Christmas," said Reynolds.

When it comes to holiday fires, the biggest culprits according to Reynolds, are cooking, candles, and extension cords.

In fact, Reynolds said candles fell under the top five reasons for house fires in Henrico County.

He said the biggest things to remember -- never leave candles unattended and keep them 12 inches away from anything that's flammable.

"Here’s the ticket -- get these battery-operated ones. This way you can keep it close to anything," said Reynolds. "If you’ve got kids, pets -- it's going to be so much safer to get these battery-operated candles."

Reynolds said to be sure you pick a healthy tree, turn off the lights and decor when you go to bed, and most importantly, have a working smoke detector in your home.