South Carolina

A fire sparked under the dry Christmas tree. A minute later, flames licked the ceiling

Myrtle Beach firefighters promote fire safety during holiday season

It took mere minutes for a Christmas tree, decked with ornaments and colored lights in a makeshift living room, to become engulfed in flames outside the no. 3 Myrtle Beach Fire Station Thursday in a demonstration to promote fire safety.
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It took mere minutes for a Christmas tree, decked with ornaments and colored lights in a makeshift living room, to become engulfed in flames outside the no. 3 Myrtle Beach Fire Station Thursday in a demonstration to promote fire safety.

It took mere minutes for a Christmas tree, decked with ornaments and colored lights in a makeshift living room, to become engulfed in flames outside the no. 3 Myrtle Beach Fire Station Thursday.

“Today we’re doing our Christmas tree burn to kind of show people how dangerous dry Christmas trees can be,” said Lt. Jonathan Evans, a public education officer with the Myrtle Beach Fire Department.

He said they wanted to show “how quickly a room can get consumed by fire” and the demonstration proved it.

The flames danced up the branches and trunk of the dry Christmas tree then lapped at the ceiling of the steel cargo container converted to a burn building for training at the station as journalists in full turnout gear watched on bended knee.

The department hosted the controlled exercise to show how fast a fire can spread and how hot and smoky a room can become in a matter of seconds in an effort to promote fire safety.

A second tree, more watered than the first, was lit on fire and it, too, went up in seconds, igniting a nearby couch. Smoke filled the room and then turned to black as the synthetic and chemically-concocted materials gave off a toxic fume.

“A lot of times within a minute, once a tree lights off, it takes about 10 to 15 seconds for that tree to be gone and then within that minute, the whole room is engulfed,” Evans said. “It doesn’t take much for these trees to go up and it’s just pine straw like you would have around your house when they’re really dry. It can become a fire hazard.”

Evans offered the following fire safety tips to avoid a yuletide blaze that could spell disaster this year.

▪  Make sure you check your Christmas tree lights when you pull them out and before they end up on the tree. “Make sure that they’re operational,” Evans said. “Make sure if you’re putting them on the outside, that you’re using exterior lights, not interior lights. Make sure you don’t put more than three strings together.”

▪  “If you do use a space heater in your home make sure that it’s far enough away from your Christmas tree or anything else that it might catch on fire,” Evans said. “When you leave the room, make sure that you turn it off so that if it falls over, it doesn’t catch something on fire.” It is also good to have space heaters equipped with safety features that will make the heaters cut off if they do fall over.

▪  “If you’re using real candles make sure that you put those out when you leave the room, as well or once you go to bed,” Evans said.

▪  Make sure electrical appliances are plugged into sockets tightly and securely.

▪  And “keep kids and small pets away from anything that could start a fire,” Evans said.

Emily Weaver: 843-444-1722, @TSNEmily

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