Originally created 12/16/00

Lights get blame in tree fire



WARRENVILLE - Lights on an unattended Christmas tree are to blame for a December fire that destroyed a Warrenville home, authorities said Friday.

After questioning the owner of a home at 107 Family Drive, sheriff's investigators traced the cause of the Dec. 3 blaze to the family's Christmas tree.

"What happened is the homeowners left home without turning off the lights," said Lt. Michael Frank with the Aiken County Sheriff's Office. "It's a prime example of how things can go terribly wrong."

Christmas trees account for 400 fires annually, resulting in 10 deaths, 80 injuries and more than $15 million in property damage, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Typically, shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches start tree fires.

Trees that are regularly watered are not a problem, but dry and neglected trees can be, according to Lt. Frank. The lieutenant also emphasized caution when people use holiday lights.

"It's just important that when people install their Christmas lights, they make sure they are quality lights, that the wiring is not frayed or in any way damaged," he said. "Secondly, when you go to bed at night, you should turn the lights on your tree off and unplug them, and also when you go away."

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895.