State & Regional

Posted: December 22, 2016

Avoid Christmas tree fires with simple safety measures, three-pronged plugs

Only days before Christmas, a Yulee family has lost everything after a fire tore through their home.

By Katie McKee

ActionNewsJax.com

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla —

Just days before Christmas, a family in Yulee, Florida has almost everything after a fire destroyed part of their home.

Fire investigators blamed an electrical cord for starting the fire that caused the family's Christmas tree to goup in flames.

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While the Sheffield's home is still standing with no exterior  damage, the interior is coated in soot and filled with melted belongings.

"Pretty much within 10 minutes it was done. Yes, everything gone," homeowner Thomas Sheffield said. Sheffield said he was home with his son on Tuesday evening when he heard a loud noise in the living room. "I opened up the door to the house and just saw black smoke and heat. All I could think about was just trying to get the animals out of there." 

Sheffield and his wife Carina have five children. What's left of their Christmas presents were scattered throughout the living room.

The state fire marshal determined the fire started in the living room where their Christmas tree stood.

"He concluded that it was the extension cord to plug to our Christmas tree that caused it. We have probably 10 of them in our house," Sheffield said.

He and his wife said they fear others do as well.

"I don't want to see other families suffer. It hurts to see your kids hurt. It's not just Christmas, but every memory they have is gone," Carina said.

She said firefighters had finished putting out the fire when she came home from the pharmacy. She sobbed after walking inside the house to see what was left.

"Pictures of our family vacations, everything just gone, and all because I bought a cheap cord instead of spending a few extra dollars to get a three-pronged one," Carina said.

Investigators said the type of cheap two-pronged extension cord the family used was unsafe. 

A spokesperson with the state fire marshall's office said he couldn't comment about what types of extension cords homeowners should buy, but he did say you get what you pay for.

According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, it's recommended people use extension cords with polarized and/or three-pronged plugs.

The National Fire Prevention Association reports there is an average of 210 fires annually involving a Christmas tree or decorations. Christmas trees and any decorations need to be 3 feet from any heat source, and people should water their tree daily.

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