Chicago Fire Department, doctors warn of holiday safety risks

CHICAGO (WLS) -- 'Tis the season for candles, lights, and in some cases, overloaded power strips. But they could cause fire hazards in your home.

They are by now age-old warnings, but the holidays bring fires - including one as recently as Wednesday morning on the West Side, where one person was brought to Stroger Hospital suffering from smoke inhalation. That person is in critical condition.

Investigators said the cause of the fire appeared to be improperly stored rags that spontaneously combusted. The home also did not have working smoke detectors, fire officials said.

Cook County health officials and the Chicago Fire Department highlighted their hazards among others as they prepare to treat burns which always spike at this time of year.

"Obviously while people are cooking for their holiday parties they might be wearing a pendulous dress or something that could catch fire over the flame of an open stove, you want to be cautious with that," said Dr. Stathis Poulakidas, a burn and trauma surgeon. "You see a lot of elderly people that sustain very bad burns that require skin grafting."

Annually, Stroger sees more than 500 serious burns with cooking fires and house infernos stemming from dry Christmas trees, overloaded electrical outlets and yes, space heaters, often the culprits.

"Candles, open flames make sure you are using battery operated candles those are the safest, as well as Christmas trees, if you have a Christmas tree in your home and it is a live tree, you want to make sure that tree remains watered," said Cmdr. Walter Schroeder, Chicago Fire Department.

Another culprit? Charging cords.

"We are finding throughout the country now those cords are catching on fire because kids are taking their phones, laying them on their beds, their charging devices," Schroeder said.

It comes back to remaining aware of surroundings and circumstances and planning for safety.
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