It happens every year, often with devastating consequences: An electrical circuit overloaded with Christmas lights bursts into flames, destroying homes, holidays, and even lives.
Dozens of firefighters responded to a report of a fire at a house in Westlake, California, around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night, Dec. 13. Westlake is a community just northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
They arrived to find a home completely engulfed in flames and a mother and her five children without a home.
According to NBC Channel 4 Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Fire Department said the fire was caused by an electrical overload from a power strip.
Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Paul Pham told NBC Los Angeles the fire broke out “right next to all the Christmas presents and the Christmas tree.”
A 14-year-old girl was taken to the hospital for treatment of burn injuries she suffered from the blaze. Her injuries are considered non-life-threatening. No others injuries were reported.
NBC Los Angeles said it took firefighters 10 minutes to beat back the fire, but by the time the flames were extinguished, the house was completely gutted.
The Red Cross provided the family with a place to stay and a $100 gift card for immediate needs. The Los Angeles Fire Department also gave the youngest children some toys to replace the gifts that were lost in fire.
The Los Angeles Fire Department urged people to take the Christmas tree fire as a cautionary tale and a reminder to keep Christmas trees hydrated with plenty of water. Just as importantly, don’t overload power strips with too many devices. An overloaded circuit may create sparks, which in this case set the presents on fire, which in turn set the Christmas tree on fire.
The National Fire Protection Association says that on average, U.S. fire departments respond to 230 house fires caused by Christmas trees each year. Annually, Christmas tree firs result in an average of six deaths, 22 injuries, and more than $18 million in property damage.