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Fire chief explains fire safety tips for Christmas

The Christmas tree is thought of as one of the main symbols of the joyous holiday season, but if not taken care of properly, it can also become the image of tragedy.

Christmas tree fires are not particularly common in the community, however, Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Chief Scott Lewis said when they do occur, they are more likely to be very serious times.

Lewis cautioned that fresh trees pose a higher danger than those of the artificial variety.

He noted the importance of inspecting the tree before making a purchase.

“If you are going to choose a fresh, natural Christmas tree, you want to make sure you shake the branches to see if the needles drop,” he said. “You also want to know if the quality and the color of the needles is fresh and appropriate for that type of tree.”

On the issue of placing the tree in a stand, Lewis said homeowners should be mindful of where the tree is placed.

“You never want to have a tree blocking an exit area inside your home and that includes the Christmas presents underneath the tree,” he said. “You don’t want to have it near the fireplace or a space heater. You also want to reinforce the watering of the tree throughout to make sure it doesn’t go dry within the warm house.”

Adorning colorful lights on the tree is a popular custom many families look forward to doing.

Lewis said families need to be cognizant of the type of lights they select for the tree, as some could pose the potential for a fire.

He said to never leave the Christmas tree lights unattended.

“If you are going to be leaving your residence, you want to turn off the Christmas lights by unplugging them,” he said. “You also want to make sure you use Christmas tree lights that are appropriate for it. The new style LED lights are much safer for a fresh Christmas tree because they don’t have the heat discharge that the old incandescent bulbs have. Any and all flames especially candles around the tree should be avoided at all costs.”

Additionally, exterior lighting on the home should also be a consideration to residents.

“The use of LED lights has greatly improved with the exterior lighting,” Lewis said. “When you look back to the older style exterior Christmas lights, they usually have some inherent problems associated with them with bulbs breaking and the heat generated by those bulbs. With the new LED lights, the technology has worked out quite well, plus they are a much lower draw on electricity, so it saves money as well.”

As a matter of safety, Lewis contends that artificial trees tend to be the safer variety.

“I don’t recall ever having fire issues with the artificial trees because most of them come pre-wired where it’s simply a matter of just placing the sections of the tree together,” he said. “We at the fire department just want to wish a safe Merry Christmas and happy holidays to the community.”

The last time Pahrump firefighters responded to a Christmas Day structure fire in the valley was only two years ago. The cause of the fire on Doubletree Road was never determined.

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

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