LOS ANGELES A beloved pet dressed in a Halloween costume, posed next to a lit jack-o-lantern, sounds like a great photo opportunity but it's also a fire hazard.
Pets and other animals inadvertently set about 510 house fires every year in this country. From 2006 to 2010, such fires caused an average of $8.7 million in property damage and injured eight humans a year, said John R. Hall Jr., division director for fire analysis and research for the National Fire Protection Association.
Animals including wild ones or pests like rats or insects are capable of starting a fire any time, but the majority involve a heat source, like a stove, light fixture, candle, embers, or a space heater, Hall said. And over colder holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, there's often more activity around those sources than usual.
A dog and a stove nearly set afire Kay Wardlow's home in Norman, three years ago. Lucy, a Labrador retriever-basset hound mix with a penchant for chocolate, tried to get a cake off the stove while the family was out, Wardlow said.
They were alerted to smoke in the house when their home security company called to say their alarm had gone off. Lucy had hit the knobs on the gas stove, moving the automatic igniter just enough so it kept tripping and trying to light, she said.
"The heat melted the plastic on top of the cake pan and that's what filled the house with smoke," she said. Firefighters told her if the alarm company hadn't notified them, it would have flamed over and set the house on fire.
Pets especially need monitoring around holidays, when owners may be cooking or baking treats more often or when potentially flammable decorations are out. A dog or cat wearing a homemade Halloween costume, especially one with a cape, might get too close to a jack-o-lantern with an open flame.