Holidays light up the night but fire safety is critical

As residents decorate their homes for the holidays, Beaufort-Port Royal firefighters advise “safety first.”

Long links of lights, frayed or inadequate extension cords, overloaded circuits, dried out Christmas trees and even stockings hung by the chimney with care — all can lead to damaging or life-threatening fires. “The holidays light up the nights, preferably from decorations but too often from fire trucks responding to blazes sparked by electrical problems from those holiday decorations”, Beaufort Fire Chief Sammy Negron said.

Nationally, the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) says 73 percent of fires that occur in December are due to failures of electrical devices powering holiday decorations. Each year, these fires lead to more than $8.5 million in property loss and emergency room visits by 5,800 people, NFPA says.

While the recent warm weather has reduced residents’ needs for portable heaters that can spark house fires, the “returning trend to large outdoor displays of holidays lights is a concern”, Negron said.

“The problem is that as you connect more sections of outdoor lights, each connection is a possible fire hazard,” he said. “Also, people sometimes use extension cords that aren’t designed for outdoor use or for the amount of lights being connected, and that can cause electrical shorts. “We don’t want to sound like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, but we do want people to be aware of the dangers and to take appropriate precautions,” Negron said. “A little prevention goes a long way toward making the holidays bright for all.”

The Fire Department offers these simple guidelines for holiday fire safety:

· Have a working smoke alarm and keep a fire extinguisher handy

· Never overload electrical circuits. Follow manufacturer recommendations on all electrical appliances

· Always use a GFIC protected electrical circuit for outside decorations

· Always use a power strip with a breaker to help prevent an electrical overload

· Turn off holiday lights when you leave your home or go to bed

· Never put extension cords under carpets or in high traffic areas. Do not use a damaged extension cord, and only use electrical equipment that has been tested by a nationally recognized agency

· Check all extension cords already in use, especially for outdoor lighting, for signs of wear or fraying

· Water live cut Christmas trees regularly to keep them from drying out and creating a fire hazard

· Keep anything that can burn, such as stockings hung from the fireplace with care, gifts, decorations and Christmas trees, at least three feet away from space heaters, fireplaces and other sources of heat

· Never leave lit candles unattended; always extinguish them before leaving the room or going to sleep.

“Being aware and being careful are the key to good fire safety,” said Capt. John Robinson. “There’s so much to celebrate this time of year, and the outdoor and indoor lights are part of the fun. We just want to help people create a festive scene that’s also safe, and using these tips for fire safety can help.”

Questions about fire prevention opportunities for homes and businesses should be directed to the Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Departments at 843-525-7055 or