Owatonna Fire Department encourages fire safety during holidays - Owatonna MN: Owatonna Peoples Press

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Owatonna Fire Department encourages fire safety during holidays

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Posted: Monday, December 3, 2012 5:04 pm | Updated: 7:42 pm, Fri Dec 7, 2012.

As residents deck their halls this holiday season with Christmas trees, twinkling lights and garland, Owatonna Fire Commander Bruce Thomas asks that people be fire smart.

“A lot of people take good care of their trees, but they just have to remember to keep them watered,” Thomas said.

Although the Owatonna Fire Department hasn’t responded to any indoor Christmas tree fires within the last few years, fire departments across the nation have.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments responded to an annual average of 240 home structure fires that began with Christmas trees from 2005 to 2009. These fires cause an average of 13 deaths, 27 injuries and $16.7 million in direct property damage each year.

Thomas did note that decorative lighting indoors and outdoors has led to some local holiday fires within the last few years.

“We had an incident a couple years ago where too many strands of lights were plugged in outside and it overheated and the siding caught on fire,” Thomas said. “When people plug too many lights together without using the proper extension cords, it gets hot. If you have a dry tree, then overheated lights could cause a fire, too.”

Holiday or other decorative lights with line voltage were involved in about 150 home structure fires each year, resulting in about eight deaths, 14 injuries, and $8.5 million in direct property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Electrical problems were factors in one-third of home Christmas tree structure fires.

Christmas tree fires can be prevented even before lights are placed on the tree.

The association provides safety tips for tree decorators.

While picking out a tree, choose one with fresh, green needles that do not fall of when touched. When placing the tree, make sure it is at least three feet away from any heat source, such as fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights. Also, make sure the tree is watered daily.

The association suggests tree owners use lights that have an independent testing label, which will determine if the lights are only for indoor or outdoor use; replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulbs; read instructions about how many strands of lights can be connected safely; and always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

After Christmas get rid of the tree or when it is dry.

The association’s data reported that five of every six Christmas tree fires occurred in December or January.

Reach reporter Ashley Stewart at 444-2378 or follow her on Twitter.com @OPPashley

© 2014 Southernminn.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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