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Be alert for mischievous jack o'lanterns this season
Oct 23, 2010

There was a house fire in Tucson, Ariz., recently, caused by jack o'lanterns. Now most of us do not believe that those mischievous faces that we carve on pumpkins can come to life and set a home on fire. However, this is what two adult children told fire investigators.

The parents were away from home on vacation, and the two adult sons decided to carve pumpkins to go along with the season. They each carved a pumpkin, placed a candle in them, lit them and then left the home for the night. They hoped the candles would self-extinguish. They were wrong. Property was destroyed, pets were killed and the residents were displaced until repairs can be made.

Carving pumpkins into jack o'lanterns is a tradition that goes way back. The story goes that turnips were first used, and a glowing coal provided illumination to the carved image on the turnip. This glowing coal was changed to candles at some point in time. I would like to change the candles to a variety of other illuminations that provide for a great effect.

I carve pumpkins every year, real and artificial. Some are simple, while some are quite elaborate. I have used candles in my creations when they go outside and well away from the walkway up to the house. They have served me well over the years, but candles must be taken very seriously. If you are going to use a candle in a pumpkin inside your home, make sure there is an adult in charge of the operation. They are responsible for lighting it, keeping an eye on it, and blowing it out when the celebration is over. Never assume that someone else has blown out the candle. If you are not sure, check it out yourself.

Next time you are pumpkin shopping, visit a Halloween store and check out the many ways to illuminate your creations. Glow sticks are great, in that they are available in so many colors, they store well and you simply snap them and they are good for the entire evening.

If you like the flickering effect, there are battery-operated flameless candles available. You simply turn the switch on and you have a very realistic flame, complete with flickering action.

There are also battery-operated lights that can go inside the jack o'lantern. Some lights simply light up, and that is a great way to start. Others have strobe effects that really draw attention to your pumpkin. Others have multi-color fade-in technology that goes through an array of colors by shading in and out. This provides a great effect and they are available at a minimal cost.

If you are carving with children, there are some tools that are not sharp. This gives young children the fun of carving without the large risk of using your sharp kitchen knives. Whichever tool you use, adult supervision is the key.

Hopefully, some of these ideas will appeal to you either because they are new and exciting or because they are a safer way to light up your jack o'lantern. Either way, enjoy the carving and Halloween season — safely.

Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia

Fire Department


IAFF Local 1164
14910 Farmington Rd.
Livonia, MI 48154

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