SIKESTON -- After years of repetition, the message of fire safety around the holidays seems to be sinking in.
"It's been at least two years and maybe longer than that" since a holiday decoration-related fire has been logged in Sikeston, according to Capt. Jim Hailey, fire division commander for the Sikeston Department of Public Safety.
"The decorations seem to be more and more safe, people are taking more safety precautions, and I think people are just more fire safe," he said. "We have a really good education program with the kids and they usually will bring that home with them."
"Overall, people are more educated - we don't have as many problems as we did in the past," agreed Benny Thurston, Miner's fire chief.
"People tend to use artificial trees more which are less likely to catch fire," Hailey added. "Live Christmas trees are about like having a can of gasoline in your living room without the fumes."
Nevertheless, accidents such as fires and electrocutions still happen and seem especially tragic at this time of year, according to DPS Director Drew Juden. He urged everyone to continue to take precautions in order to help make the holidays as safe as possible.
"We had one incident in a trailer down here in which lights shorted out," Thurston said. "They had a bad line on a Christmas tree. They caught it before they had a fire."
Juden reminded area residents of common-sense precautions including:
-- Extinguish all candles and turn off potpourri pots whenever you leave the home. It is best to not allow these to burn when not attended.
-- Do not overload extension cords.
-- Do not use extension cords underneath rugs. If they must be put in a traveled part of the floor, use rubberized cord protectors.
-- Keep live Christmas trees watered.
-- Do not use candles around live evergreen trees or ornamentation. Advent wreaths that are made of evergreen and candle are a severe fire hazard.
Thurston said he remembers people using real candles to decorate trees but doesn't really see it anymore - although some still use them for window decorations. "We still see people do that," Thurston said. He advised caution for window candles as "that's close to draperies and they can catch on fire."
The modern culprit for many holiday fires is the extension cord. "Make sure they're in good shape - not frayed or showing naked wire," Thurston said.
With the cold weather setting in, residents should also use caution with space heaters.
"Space heaters need three feet of air space around them," Hailey said, "and they should also not be run off an extension cord." Even objects you wouldn't normally think of as flammable such as an end table can ignite if they are too close to a space heater for too long, he said.