Fire officials offer tips to prevent accidental blazes

EVERETT — House fire season is here.

As fall turns to winter, the combination of heating devices and holiday celebrations often makes for rashes of house fires in Snohomish County.

Local fire marshals are asking everyone to take a few minutes to think about fire prevention. Some of their recommendations might sound like common sense, but they see fires start the same ways every year.

When it gets cold, a lot of wall and baseboard heaters will kick on automatically, even if the thermostat is turned off, Monroe Fire Marshal Mike Fitzgerald said. Anything that could catch fire should be kept at least three feet away.

Heat lamps used in outdoor buildings and animal pens should be checked, he said. They should be in good condition, and out of reach of animals.

That goes for portable heaters, too, Everett Fire Marshal Rick Robinson said. Children should not be left unsupervised around the devices, or they can be seriously burned.

“Keeping heaters clear, that’s really important,” he said.

Chimneys also need to be cleaned this time of year, Robinson said.

In cold weather, the smoke from burning wood condenses inside of chimneys and becomes a layer of flammable creosote that can ignite. It’s not good when the wooden framework around chimneys starts to heat up.

“It’s actually like having a charcoal briquette,” he said.

People must never bring an outdoor cooking device, like a barbecue, grill or camp stove, inside, Lynnwood police spokeswoman Shannon Sessions said. Those devices can silently fill rooms with poisonous carbon monoxide even if they’re outside but left too close to doors or windows.

Christmas trees can turn into torches if they’re not minded.

Trees should be at least three feet from any heat sources, said Jennye Cooper, public educator at Snohomish County Fire District 8 in Lake Stevens. Real trees must be watered daily and thrown out after the holiday or if they dry out.

“Dried-out trees are fire dangers and should not be left in or near your house,” she said.

Holiday lights can catch fire, said Kristen Thorstenson, spokeswoman for Safe Kids Snohomish County.

People should follow the directions on the packaging, and throw out any lights with frayed wires, bare spots, broken parts or obvious wear, she said.

Holiday lights only should be left on when people are around, she said.

The same goes for candles. Candles need to have sturdy bases and not be left close to flammable decorations, which includes the Christmas tree. They need to be safe from being knocked over by children and pets.

Candlewicks should be trimmed, and candles shouldn’t be burned beyond the height of their holder, according to Mountlake Terrace city officials. Votives should not be burned below the bottom half-inch of wax

And don’t burn wrapping paper, parts of the tree or other holiday items in the fireplace. That has caused serious fires here in recent memory.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449;

Holiday safety tips

•Don’t leave cars running unattended while they warm up. Car thieves like that.

Brush up on how to keep house pipes from freezing. Never warm frozen pipes with a torch or lighter. Don’t leave frozen pipes unattended, in case they burst.

Have a plan for power outages, including a stock of batteries and nonperishable food.

Check the emergency kits in your vehicle and home. Make sure you have emergency plans for children and pets, and for older relatives who live nearby.

Source: Snohomish County police, fire and emergency officials

Recycle holiday trees

Local Boy Scout troops often recycle Christmas trees as part of an annual fundraiser. Go to to see which troop covers your neighborhood and how to contact them.

For more information, call 425-338-0380.

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