Fire Department Seeking To Derail Holiday Tragedies

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It was Dec. 24, 1974, when a young firefighter responded to his first real blaze --a Christmas tree fire that destroyed the home of a Tucson family the morning of Christmas Eve. The cause of the fire was electrical. The family had left their Christmas tree lights on all night.

That fire instilled in the young man --who 24 years later became Payson's fire chief --a respect and awe of the destruction that can be caused by a dried-out tree.

"They are literally firebombs when they get dried out," Payson Fire Chief John Ross said. "When they burn, they go up in seconds."

The Payson firefighters are hoping for a peaceful, non-flammable holiday season. To that end, Chief Ross and his crew have issued a few holiday safety tips:

  • Space heaters need space --three feet minimum on all sides. Turn off space heaters when you leave the house and at night. Also, do not use extension cords with space heaters; plug them directly into the wall outlet.
  • Clean your chimney once a year, or as needed. Burn only dry, seasoned wood. Place hot ashes in a metal container and let cool for at least three days before disposing them.
  • Wrapping paper should not be burned; throw used paper in a trash can.
  • Make sure your heater is functioning properly. If it is not, carbon monoxide can build up in your home, which could be fatal.
  • Don't overuse extension cords or electrical outlets. Don't run them under rugs or over nails. Most electrical wiring fires start in the bedroom.
  • All holiday lights and electrical equipment should be approved by Underwriters Laboratory (U.L. Listed). Check for this statement on all items before purchasing.
  • Cut Christmas trees need water to keep them from drying out. Check the water level every other day. Take your tree down as soon as possible after the holidays and dispose of it properly.
  • Check to make sure you have at least one functioning smoke detector in the house.
  • Prepare for fire by practicing exit drills. Keep a charged fire extinguisher handy.

Residents unsure if their holiday decorations or lights are safe for use can stop by the Payson Fire Department and have them checked by a fire professional.

For more information, contact the Payson Fire Department at 474-3369.

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