Fire Marshal: House fires spike around holidays

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Candles, cooking and Christmas trees make the holiday season merry and bright, but fire officials say they’re also factors that contribute to an uptick in fires this time of year.

There’s a spike every holiday season in the number of kitchen fires, Christmas tree fires, and structure fires caused by electricity,” said Captain Kenneth Botelho, the East Providence Fire Marshal.

Botelho said Christmas trees can be particularly dangerous because once they go up in flames it’s like “lighting gasoline on fire.” He warns those who have real trees to keep them well-watered. Botelho said he checks his tree twice a day, once in the morning, and once before bed, to ensure the tree’s stand is filled with water.

“Christmas trees dry out, and then they burn very easily and they burn rapidly, and with a lot of heat,” he said. “There are a lot of deaths because of Christmas tree fires.”

Botelho said it’s also important to keep trees away from heat sources like space heaters, radiators and fireplaces. He said people should also check their tree’s lights for any broken bulbs or torn cords.

“If  you do have damaged lights or any damage to the cord at all, just throw it away don’t use it,” he said.

While Botelho recommends using LED candles, he said anyone using real candles this holiday season should never leave them unattended.

“A child or a pet could knock the candle over and it could roll underneath drapery or bedding and start that on fire, and next thing you know you have a structure fire,” he said. Vigilance is also important in the kitchen, where Botelho said it’s important to keep a close eye on the stove and oven, and ensure decorations are far away, so as not to catch fire.

Botelho also encourages people to check their carbon monoxide and smoke detectors to make sure they’re working properly, and to keep a fire extinguisher close by in the case of an emergency.

Ultimately, Botelho said it’s simple for people to enjoy the holiday season safely, just by taking a few precautions.

“Go ahead and decorate and enjoy yourself this holiday season, but just keep safety in the back of your mind,” he said.