Christmas decorations not the biggest holiday fire hazards

By Tony Parra

People during Christmas time may be focusing on Christmas trees and lights as a fire danger, but in Roosevelt County, they will need to turn their attention to what keeps them warm more than anything else.
Portales Fire Marshal Mike Running said his major concerns in Portales are space heaters and fire places more than Christmas lights and Christmas trees.
“I see a trend in lower-income households in which they can’t afford their fuel bills and they are resorting to other means to heat their homes,” Running said. “They are relying on cheaper space heaters without thinking about the risks. They heat their homes with a stove or an oven. Heating with an oven is an obvious fire hazard and the appliance can build up carbon monoxide.”
Each year fires during the holiday season injure 2,600 individuals and cause more than $930 million in damage, according to the United States Fire Administration’s Web site.
Running said during this holiday season and previous holiday season, local fires have not been because of Christmas trees or lights.
“We haven’t had a lot of fires involving Christmas lights or Christmas trees in the last few years,” Running said. “Fires typically have occurred because of electrical-related or space heaters.”
In fact the last two fires in Roosevelt County appear to have occurred because of space heaters, according to Running. Running said a fire which Portales fire fighters put out on Dec. 10 in a mobile home was because of a space heater. Running said it appears as if a space heater also caused a fire on Wednesday which destroyed the brick home of Bud and Joyce Jones.
Running said the location of where the fire started was at an electrical outlet near a space heater in the kitchen. He said a final determination of the cause of the fire has not been made.
Running said people have space heaters shut off during the day when the sun is out and it is warm and then they’ll leave many combustible items lying around the space heater during that time. He said then when it gets cold at night the space heaters come back on causing a risk to start a fire. Running said space heaters need to be at least three feet away from anything combustible.
Running said the other major concern for him in Roosevelt County is fireplaces. Running said some people light their fireplaces with gasoline and then leave the gas tanks near the fire. Both are major fire hazards.
The colder weather season has just begun and the need to keep warm will continue to rise, but Running advises people need to keep warm in a cautious manner.