WESTFORD, MA — Fire officials are reminding residents to use extension cords safely and exercise caution with their holiday decorations after a fire that started with an extension cord powering Christmas lights.
The small fire on Friday afternoon began in a plastic “igloo” used for outdoor dining outside a Westford restaurant. Fire investigators determined that it started with Christmas lights that had been plugged into a series of two extension cords, including one with exposed wires that had been wrapped with duct tape. One extension cord ran under a door to the restaurant, where it was subject to friction from the opening and closing door.
No one was injured but the same circumstances could have led to tragedy if they occurred indoors or when people were sleeping, said Westford Fire Chief Joseph Targ and State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey. An electrical fire in the area of a Christmas tree could have devastating results, they said.
“Extension cords can be convenient, but they should always be used safely,” said Chief Targ. “Check your extension cord before use and discard it if the insulation is cracked, worn, or damaged. Replacing the cord is much less expensive than replacing all the items that can burn in a fire.”
“Plugging one extension cord into another can overload and overheat it, creating a fire hazard, so use a longer cord instead,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. “If you’re using an extension cord outdoors, be sure it’s listed by a qualified testing organization like UL and marked for outdoor use. And be sure to use a cord that’s rated for the wattage of whatever you’re powering. Appliances like space heaters should be plugged directly into a wall socket that can handle the current, not an extension cord.”
An electrical fire – or any type of fire – in or near a Christmas tree can grow to engulf a room in seconds, fire officials said. Use caution with lights, cords, and heating appliances, and be sure there are working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on all floors of the residence. Water your tree regularly to reduce the hazard further.
For more electrical safety information, visit the Department of Fire Services website.
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