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Keep watchful eye on pets to prevent fires during holidays

LOS ANGELES — A beloved pet dressed in a Halloween costume, posed next to a lit jack-o'-lantern, sounds like a great photo opportunity — but it's also a fire hazard. Pets and other animals inadvertently set about 510 house fires every year in this country. From 2006 to 2010, such fires caused an average of $8.7 million in property damage and injured eight humans a year, said John R. Hall Jr., division director for fire analysis and research for the National Fire Protection Association.

Animals, including wild ones or pests like rats or insects, are capable of starting a fire any time, but the majority involve a heat source, like a stove, light fixture, candle, embers, or a space heater, Hall said. And over colder holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, there's often more activity around those sources than usual.

Pets need monitoring especially around holidays, when owners may be cooking or baking treats more often, or when potentially flammable decorations are out. A dog or cat wearing a homemade Halloween costume, especially one with a cape, might get too close to an open flame.

"If you dress your own dog, the fabric probably isn't fire-retardant," said Lisa Peterson, a spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club. "So you need to be vigilant."

Christmas trees, in particular, can topple when cats and dogs try to explore or climb them. Some decorations and overloaded electrical outlets can be dangerous.

Tips for owners

Unattended pets that are bored or hungry could unintentionally set a home on fire. Here are ways to pet-proof a home to make these situations less likely:

• Keep the stove clear. Remove knobs or cover them if you leave the house.

• Keep fire extinguishers in rooms where fires are likely to start, like kitchens and garages.

• Place smoke detectors in every room. In kitchens, consider rate-of-rise detectors, which are triggered by rapid rises in temperature rather than smoke or steam.

• Use flameless candles.

• Thoroughly douse cigarettes in ashtrays and fires in fireplaces.

• Don't use glass bowls to feed your pets on wooden surfaces. Sun can filter through glass and ignite wood.

• Keep leashes for pets close to the door so you or firefighters can grab animals and leave quickly.

• Keep a window cling with an updated list of the names of children and pets.

Associated Press

Keep watchful eye on pets to prevent fires during holidays 10/22/12 [Last modified: Monday, October 22, 2012 11:32am]

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