String of house & apartment fires cause concern

FRESNO, Calif.

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Overall fire deaths are slightly down over the past five years, but deaths from accidental causes are up 18-percent. In this last week of December, homes are three times more likely to catch fire due to candle ignited fires.

Cell phone video captured in Visalia Tuesday night shows just how quickly a fire can change one family's life. Fire officials say scenes like this have played out for too often this holiday season. Red Cross officials agree. So far this month, they've assisted thirty families throughout the Valley who have been displaced by a fire, including five over the Christmas weekend.

Katrina Poitras said, "We've seen the full gamut actually. We've seen from people having electrical problems in their attics, clear down to portable heaters, to toys, that were Christmas, exploding."

While some of those fires were unavoidable, many are just the opposite. Lit candles left unattended are a common cause. So are dry Christmas trees left near a heat source.

Captain Brad Driscoll said, "It's amazingly fast how quick a dry Christmas tree. It just a big stick of dry kindling that's ready to go up."

Fire experts say when your tree starts to become brittle, your best bet is to cut it up in pieces, and throw it in your green trash bin for pick up.

Another helpful tip, check the batteries on your smoke detectors to make sure they're working.

Also, keep in mind not to burn Christmas tree branches, burn Christmas trees, or wrapping paper in your fire place.

According to the United States Fire Administration, each year, holiday fires cause nearly one-billion dollars in damages. It's a big number that can change for the better -- only if, the proper steps are taken.

To coincide with the fire department being busy, Red Cross officials say they are stretched thin. They are in desperate need of donations and volunteers.

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