Be aware of fire dangers during the holidays - KTEN.com - Texoma news, weather and sports

Be aware of fire dangers during the holidays

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It takes less than 10 seconds for an unwatered Christmas tree to go up in flames. (Photo Courtesy F. Webber/NIST) It takes less than 10 seconds for an unwatered Christmas tree to go up in flames. (Photo Courtesy F. Webber/NIST)

ARDMORE, Okla. -- Picture a family gathering around a fireplace with a Christmas tree nearby. This Hallmark Card vision can quickly turn ugly if that tree is too dry.

And falling temperatures can raise fire danger in a hurry.

More than an inch-and-a-half of rain fell on Carter County Tuesday, and more rain is in the forecast. But county commissioners decided to extend the burn ban through Christmas, which is one of the most dangerous times of the year for house fires.

It takes only a matter of seconds for a real tree to go up in flames, and less than one minute for a whole room to become engulfed.

Even if you have an artificial tree at home, there are extra risks at this festive time of year.

"You don't need 20 million lights on a tree ... when a thousand would be sufficient," Carter County Emergency Management director Paul Tucker advised. "Use appropriate outlets and extension cords if you have to, but don't cover them with any type of rug ... because they can overheat and cause a fire hazard."

And be sure to play it safe and make sure smoke detectors are installed and in working order.

"One of the main things is, of course ... to be able to have some type of warning or notification in your home."

Experts say it's a good idea to check your smoke alarms at least twice a year, especially if they are older models. Change the battery in a smoke alarm every year. And smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years because the sensors can become ineffective. New units are available online for less than $10.

"One thing happens twice a year, every year, and that's time change," Tucker said. "Every time you set your clocks back or set them forward, check your batteries."

But if you failed to examine your smoke detectors this year, this is the time to do it -- before plugging in those lights or turning on that space heater.

If your budget can't handle a new or replacement smoke detector, contact your local Red Cross; they can supply and install one at no charge.

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