UPDATE: This article was updated at 2:20 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, to include more information about fire safety.
The lights on a Christmas tree that were left on all night caused the fire in Walker County Wednesday morning that completely engulfed a home and sent four people to the hospital.
A 60-year old male suffered second and third degree burns, while three others needed medical care for smoke inhalation.
Walker County fire officials said smoke alarms inside the home activated and warned the family of the fire. Walker County Fire Rescue installed three new smoke alarms at this residence on October 2, 2018.
Legge said there were no working smoke alarms in the home before the family took advantage of the county's free community service program.
Walker County residents who are in need of free smoke alarms can contact the county's fire rescue department at 706-539-1255 to schedule an appointment for installation.
Tennessee homeowners can participate in the State Fire Marshal's Office program Get Alarmed, TN!, a grant-funded fire safety education and smoke alarm installation program. Since the program began in November 2012, volunteers from more than 530 fire departments and civic organizations have distributed more than 217,000 working smoke alarms across the state.
On Wednesday, the fire marshal and other state officials reminded Tennesseans that with the first official day of winter, Dec. 21, rapidly approaching, fire safety should be a high priority for families. During the winter months, the risks to homeowners rise as fire deaths jump by nearly 75 percent across the state, according to a news release from the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. Heating equipment is the leading cause of home fire deaths nationally and the second leading known cause in Tennessee.
"I am grateful for our partners both nationally and here in Tennessee who share our goal of saving lives and preventing fire fatalities," said Tennessee State Fire Marshal and Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner (TDCI) Hodgen Mainda. "I remind my fellow Tennesseans to stay warm and safe this winter by following our fire safety tips and making sure that the smoke alarms in their homes are working properly."
The following are some additional tips to remember to avoid fires in your home this season:
— Keep flammable items like blankets or furniture at least 3 feet away from space heaters and wood stoves.
— Practice a home fire escape plan with your family. Everyone should know two ways out of each room.
— Never smoke in a home where medical oxygen is present. The increased presence of oxygen in the air makes fire burn hotter and faster.
— Always turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
— Never use your oven to heat your home.
— Have heating equipment and chimneys inspected every year.
— Burn only dry, seasoned wood in fireplaces and wood stoves. Never burn garbage or use flammable liquids to start a fire.
— Make sure any fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying out. Ashes should be cool before disposing of them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
— Install wood burning stoves following manufacturer's instructions or have a professional do the installation. All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
— If you smell gas coming from your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company.
— If you live in a home or apartment with fire sprinklers, make sure there is pressure on the gauge and call your local fire department if you have any questions.
Contact Patrick Filbin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.