Caution: Outdoor Christmas Lights

I used to see Christmas lights. Now I see fire hazard. Image by Michelle Maria from Pixabay.

I usually get white Christmas lights installed on the outline of my roof each year.  It looks nice, I like the glow, and if I am entertaining, it makes the house a tad easier to find.  This year, something went horribly wrong, but thanks to the keen eye of a neighbor and Divine intervention, my house was spared.

For the holidays, I was out of town this year.  What I could tell from security cameras is that the front outside lights were shining brightly on Monday, December 21, but by Saturday, December 26, they were not working.  My neighbor/security guard noticed they were out and asked if I wanted her to check the timer/plug.  When she did, she found the extension cord running from the timer to the lights had burned through.

The burned and severed extension cord.

The next day with better light she saw the blackening of the painted gutter and the wooden eave.  It was clear that sparking or a small fire had started and burned through the extension cord, thus extinguishing the power to the cord, and stopping the resulting sparks.  I got a couple of family members to go in to make sure there was no smoke in the house or attic.  We wanted to be sure that whatever happened would not start a fire.  All was fine.

We may never know exactly what happened.  We did have an extremely windy day on December 23, but I am not sure if that played into it.

Charring on the gutter and upper trim.

I spoke with a man who had been a fireman, and he mentioned that if the extension cord was pinched between the house and gutter, that it could have heated up to a point to cause the damage.

I think of all the stress a house fire causes, and how broken hearted my husband and I would be to lose family photos and mementos.  We know we were blessed to be spared (I have said a prayer of thanks more than once).  I know I never want anything like this to happen again… not to me, nor to you.

Going forward, I may or may not get Christmas lights added to the roof.  If I do, I know I will articulate to the vendor to make sure there are not nicks or cuts in the wires, that all the cords are within a couple of years old, and that no stress in put on any of the cords.  I will probably want to keep an eye on the installation process, just for peace of mind.

I hope this is information that will be of help to you in the future.  Naïvely, I always thought of Christmas tree lights as being the source of house fires, not the outdoor lights.

Another view.

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