Sunday night house fire in Port Royal sparked by Christmas lights

A Port Royal house fire Sunday night likely started from exterior Christmas lights being connected to one outlet, causing an overload, Beaufort-Port Royal firefighters said.  The blaze, on Prince William Drive, started about 9 p.m. The homeowner acted quickly, first calling 911 and then turning off the main electrical breaker and getting his family out of the house, according to Beaufort Fire Chief Sammy Negron. The homeowner then used a fire extinguisher to put out much of the visible fire, but firefighters discovered most of the blaze was inside a wall – requiring them to cut open the wall from the inside to fully put out the fire.

Twenty firefighters from Beaufort-Port Royal and Burton fought the fire, and Red Cross representatives arrived to help the family, Negron said.  The Christmas holidays light up the nights – preferably from decorations but too often from fire trucks responding to blazes sparked by electrical problems from those holiday decorations, Negron said.

Addtionally, the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) says 73 percent of fires that occur in December are due to failures of electrical devices powering holiday decorations.  

Each year, these fires lead to more than $8.5 million dollars in property loss and emergency room visits by 5,800 people who were injured by electrical shocks and falls from ladders, NFPA says. 

“This is the time of year that we break out our decorations and prepare our homes for the season.  We put up our trees and shower them with lights,” Negron said. “We hang lights on our fences, and put lights in the bushes.  We set up the blow-up snowmen and reindeer in the yard until the mood is just right – but the mood can be ruined with a fire. Our goal is to help prevent that through good education.”     

Capt. John Robinson, training and education officer for the Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department, offers these simple guidelines for holiday fire safety:

  • Have a working smoke alarm and keep a fire extinguisher handy
  • Never overload electrical circuits.  Follow manufacturer recommendations on all electrical appliances
  • Always use a GFIC protected electrical circuit for outside decorations
  • Always use a power strip with a breaker to help prevent an electrical overload
  • Turn off holiday lights when you leave your home or go to bed 
  • Never put extension cords under carpets or in high traffic areas.  Do not use a damaged extension cord, and only use electrical equipment that has been tested by a nationally recognized agency
  • Check all extension cords already in use, especially for outdoor lighting, for signs of wear or fraying
  • Water live cut Christmas trees regularly to keep them from drying out and creating a fire hazard 
  • Keep anything that can burn, such as stockings hung from the fireplace with care, gifts, decorations and Christmas trees, at least three feet away from space heaters, fireplaces and other sources of heat
  • Never leave lit candles unattended; always extinguish them before leaving the room or going to sleep
  • Never leave cooking unattended.  If you must leave the kitchen, turn off the stove. 

“There’s so much to celebrate this time of year,” Robinson said. “We want to help people create a festive scene that’s also safe, and using these tips for fire safety can help.”

Questions about fire prevention opportunities for homes and businesses should be directed to the Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Departments at 843-525-7055 or city-fire@cityofbeaufort.org


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