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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Jack DeGrandchamp, of DeGrandchamp Schlup Family Christmas Trees, makes a bundle of boughs. Live Christmas trees should be properly placed and decorated, and watered daily, to prevent the threat of a house fire.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017 1:00 am

Safe for the holidays

Prevent house fire by caring for tree, candles, stove top

TERRI RICHARDSON | The Journal Gazette

If you are decorating or cooking for the holiday season, you've probably made plans and preparations. There's what tree you will buy: artificial or live. What ornaments or colors you will use on your tree. Whether you will make turkey or ham for Christmas dinner, or what type of cookies to bring to the holiday office party.

But the one thing you might not have made plans for, or really made a part of your holiday preparations, is fire safety.

James Murua, assistant chief and city fire marshal for the Fort Wayne Fire Department, says holiday activities are one of the leading causes of house fires.

“Everyone gets a little busier during the holiday season,” Murua says, and sometimes things can be overlooked.

One of the biggest causes of fires during the holiday season is cooking or unattended cooking, Murua says. Another, he says, is the use of candles. December is a peak month for home candle fires, Murua says.

Here are fire safety tips provided by Murua and the fire department that can help keep you and your family safe during the holiday season:

Christmas tree

If you buy a live tree, make sure that the needles don't fall off when you touch it, Murua says. If they do, that means the tree is dry and could cause a fire if lights and other decorations are added.

Before placing the tree in the stand, cut about 2 inches from the trunk. Also, make sure the tree is a distance away from any heat source, such as fireplaces, radiators, heat vents and candles. Water daily so that the tree doesn't dry out.

Make sure the tree doesn't block the exit, Murua says. “Some people buy some pretty big trees,” he says.

When it comes to holiday lighting, use only lights that can be used on an artificial or live tree. Also, make sure that you don't have too many things plugged into one source because it could cause electrical problems. Make sure cords are in good shape – not frayed or worn down. When using outdoor cords, make sure they are rated for outdoor use.

Never use candles on trees.

Make sure to turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

After Christmas, make sure you get rid of your live tree in a timely manner. Murua says not to leave the tree in your home or garage because the tree will dry out. He suggests dropping the tree off at a free site provided by the Allen County Solid Waste Management District.


“Don't have them too close to anything combustible,” Murua says. He says to make sure to blow out candles before going to bed or before leaving home.

When decorating with candles, make sure they are sturdy and on a good surface to avoid tipping over.

Make sure to watch children or pets when you do have candles burning. Never leave them alone in a room with a burning candle.

Murua recommends using flameless candles, which look like the real thing.


Stay in the kitchen while cooking, Murua says. Make sure to turn things off when finished and create a 3-foot zone around stove to keep children and pets safe.

Use a timer to remind you that you are cooking. Keep anything that can catch fire, such as oven mitts, food packaging, towels or wooden utensils, away from the stove top.

And if you do have a fire, get out of the house, Murua says. He says to leave, shut the door behind you and then call 911 after you are outside and safe.