Fire departments typically issue yearly warnings of the risks posed by Christmas trees.
But Friday’s warning – in the wake of three house fire deaths within the last week – took on greater urgency.
Early Wednesday, just one day after two children died in a south Sacramento house fire, a house fire claimed the life of an elderly Citrus Heights woman. While it’s too early to say whether there were working smoke detectors, Sacramento Fire Department Spokesman Chris Harvey said the incidents should still be a reminder to residents to be careful with fire in the home, have an evacuation plan and to have a working smoke detector in the home.
The recent fires and the three fatalities are a tragic example of increased risk of home fire during cold weather months. The end goal of this campaign is to save lives lost due to preventable home fires.
Barbara Butterfield, of Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
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“The message is still clear. We need working smoke detectors in every home,” Harvey told the media Friday, gathered at the regional training academy to light a Christmas tree ablaze to demonstrate how quickly such trees can catch fire, especially when allowed to dry out.
The city Fire Department teamed up with Sacramento Metropolitan Fire Department, the American Red Cross and power provider Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to offer Friday’s warning – which included not only Christmas tree safety, but also warnings about candles and other potential winter fire hazards.
“When you leave a room, don’t leave candles burning,” said Michelle Eidam, a Metro Fire spokeswoman.
Saturday, more than 100 Red Cross volunteers will canvass 20 Sacramento neighborhoods to ensure homes have working smoke detectors. They expect to distribute more than 1,000 new smoke detectors. The national program, aimed at reducing the number of home fire deaths by 25 percent, has already saved 28 lives, said Gary Strong, executive director of the Gold Country region. Those are homes where residents reported surviving a fire after previously being given a smoke detector, Strong said.
PG&E has contributed $1 million toward the effort statewide, with $200,000 earmarked for this region.
Twenty-nine Sacramento County residents died from accidental exposure to smoke or fire between 2009 and 2013 – about six deaths per year, according to figures from the California Department of Public Health. Statewide, roughly 800 California residents died from fire or smoke during that period – about 160 deaths per year. December was the worst month for fire deaths; about 1 of every 7 California fire deaths occurred during December.
“The recent fires and the three fatalities are a tragic example of increased risk of home fire during cold weather months,” said Barbara Butterfield, of Pacific Gas and Electric. “The end goal of this campaign is to save lives lost due to preventable home fires.”
Christmas tree safety tips
- Select a fresh tree with needles that don’t fall off
- Cut 2 inches off bottom of tree
- Water tree daily
- Position tree away from heat sources
- Dispose of tree properly once it shows signs of drying out
General home fire safety tips
- Position smoke detectors near bedrooms
- Replace smoke detector batteries regularly
- Don’t leave candles unattended
- Plan multiple ways to exit home in an emergency
- Don’t overload electrical sockets
- Don’t use indoor lights outdoors
- Use lid to smother small grease fires
Source: Sacramento Fire Department