Contents of a burned out home

– Submitted photo,

A house fire is devastating no matter the time of year, but during the holiday season it can hit harder for everyone involved.

“It’s tough at anytime, but when you see it at the holiday season — people celebrating the end of the year or celebrating the holidays with friends and family — it can have a greater effect, not only on us, but on the victims themselves,” said veteran firefighter Jack Burt, an assistant deputy fire chief with the London Fire Department.

Making it even tougher is the fact that Christmas is also one of the busiest times of the year for firefighters as well.

Even with the added emotions tied to the holidays, fire crews don’t take a different approach to doing the job, and are just as focused as they are at any other time of the year, said Burt.

“We are cognisant that there is an elevated risk at this time of year, and that’s why we practice and plan.”

Aside from the weather outside, other factors making it harder for firefighters once inside a house are the trappings of the season itself.

“Oftentimes things become more congested — couches and furniture have been moved around from locations they would have been before, Christmas trees and things of that nature, the introduction of extension cords — all that kind of stuff we could get tangled up in.”

Burt said there have been a few fires he has attended at this time of year that still stick out in his mind. Most notably was one in which a family pet was lost in the fire.

“It was devastating enough for that family to lose their home, but to lose their dog as well was something that always stuck with me.”

Cooking remains the top cause of fires in London. Adding alcohol into that equation doesn’t help either.

“We want people to understand that cooking can cause fires very rapidly and we want to make sure people look while they cook, watch what they heat, stand by their pan and be still by the grill,” Burt said.

In one particular case, a fire that started in a kitchen was actually the result of a busy parent placing a Christmas gift on the stovetop and accidentally turning the burner on.

The switch from real to artificial trees and the introduction of LED lights has cut down on the number of Christmas tree fires, but Burt said people still need to remain vigilant. For those preferring to put up a real tree, he said it’s important to keep it watered to make sure it doesn’t dry out.

Source: Fire doesn’t take a Christmas vacation |