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How to Avoid a House Fire During the Holidays

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ANKENY, Iowa -- The flashing lights of the fire truck have been a familiar sight across the metro recently.  Dozens of fires have hit metro homes since our first freeze a couple of weeks ago and local firefighters expect that number to keep rising.

“Because of the heating factors and Christmas, the holidays and everything else. The incidence of fire in homes increases significantly,” said Craig Fraser, fire marshal for the Ankeny Fire Department.

Fraser says that most house fires they respond to during the winter have one of the following mistakes: electrical wiring errors, too much exposure to open flames, or the misuse of portable space heaters.

A space heater needs three feet of clearance around it. Fraser also recommended buying a heater that has a timer or auto- turn-off. This way, if you forget about it won’t be fatal.

“We need to make sure we maintain that three feet of separation,” said Fraser. “You can see we’ve got skirting around bed. There again these products can get dry and get dried out from the continuous heating. Once they dry out to a point they start to become more combustible.”

We move onto a holiday favorite, the old-yule-log. While it provides the perfect setting for holidays, it’s also puts us at risk, each time we turn it on.

“So, any of this stuff is combustible, around the hearth area, even including the decorations, it should be moved out at least three feet,” said Fraser.

Fraser admits that telling people to keep things away from open flames can a bit obvious. But he says that he’s been to too many houses where this exact situation has taken down a home. So keep everything at three feet away from the fire place and you’ll be fine.

The final piece we go over is electric mishaps. Before you string up your lights, Fraser urges you to check all the bulbs and wiring.

Also, if you are going to use a real tree make sure it has enough water, because even a tiny Christmas light can send a dry tree up in flames. Just, like the space heater he recommends, putting your lights on a timer. This way they are not running all day.

Craig says if you follow these common sense tips, you’ll be able to keep your family safe when they come to visit.

“That’s what we want to do. We want to make sure people are aware of the safety,” said Fraser. “Also, to keep aware of the things they need to be reminded of to make sure their houses are safe during the holidays. The last thing we want during the holidays is someone displaced from their home.”