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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : features : features August 19, 2014

12/6/2012 9:59:00 PM
Ask the contractor: Flameless candles, smoke alarms could save your home, life

Sandy Griffis
Yavapai County Contractors Association

The tradition of putting lights on holiday trees dates back to at least the 17th century, when candles were used. But it was not until 1883 that an inventor and vice president of Edison's Electric Company named Edward Johnson had the idea to light up a tree with electric lights.

Johnson used 80 small electric bulbs to decorate his personal Christmas tree. This phenomenon of electric lights caused quite a stir, and the story was picked up by a few newspapers. Two years later, after improvements to the lights and additional press, the idea of lights on trees take off.

The first strings of Christmas lights were mass-produced in 1890. By 1900, department stores started using lights for displays, and the wealthy were installing the lights on their homes. By 1930, safety standards were established and production costs were lowered, and Christmas tree lights became a part of our holiday decorations ever since.

As our temperatures drop, Christmas lights, fires in fireplaces and candles start to decorate and warm our homes for the season and house fires become more common. Unfortunately, lights and decorations are a major cause of house fires.

When positioning Christmas lights, it is imperative that you do not allow them to directly touch decorations or any other combustible material. Make sure you use the proper extension cords for inside and outside use, and that the cords have no exposed wiring and all connections are in good shape.

Candles are indeed a beautiful accessory and their usage increases during winter and the holidays. Thirteen percent of home candle fires begin in December, compared with 4 percent the rest of the year.

• Avoid using lighted candles - consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look and smell like real candles.

• Make sure candles are in sturdy, metal, glass or ceramic holders and placed where they cannot be easily knocked down.

• Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn.

• Keep candles out of reach of kids and pets.

• Make sure candles are extinguished after use and before going to bed.

• NEVER leave candles burning unattended.

It is easy to think that a fire would never happen to your family, but there are more potential risks around your home, especially during the winter and holiday season. Fires grow quickly; it can take just a few seconds for a spark to fill a room with toxic smoke. Within 3 seconds of ignition, a dry scotch pine is completely ablaze. Within 40 seconds a flashover occurs and the entire room is engulfed with flame.

Make sure your smoke alarms are operating properly and test them. Involve your children so they are aware of what the alarm sounds like. Batteries should be changed 1-2 times per year.

Chimney fires are a greater risk during this time of the year. It is important to have your chimney inspected and cleaned. Never burn wrapping paper in the fireplace as it can cause an intense burst of heat that can lead to a fire.

Space heaters are also involved in a large number of home fires. The most common cause of a space heater fire is placing the unit in close proximity to something that can burn such as a blanket, furniture or curtains. Space heaters should be placed at least 3 feet away from objects.

Keep your holiday safe. Be sensible and take precautions. Following the above steps can prevent some of the most common causes of home fires during the holidays.

May your Christmas sparkle with moments of love, laughter and goodwill.

And may the year ahead be full of contentment and joy.

Yavapai County Contractors Association (YCCA) is a professional association representing licensed, bonded and insured contractors, suppliers, distributors and business entities. Call YCCA for information on hiring a contractor at 778-0040. Submit questions to ycca@cableone.net or through www.ycca.org.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, December 08, 2012
Article comment by: Flameless Candles

I've been using "flameless candles" for years now and they are a life saver when you have cats, dogs, and small children. They also can be purchased with timers. A great thing to use all year round.

Posted: Saturday, December 08, 2012
Article comment by: Really Now

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