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Colfax County Fire Department

Nick Cardenas
Colfax County Fire Marshal

230 North 3rd Street
Raton NM 87740
Phone: (575) 445-8931
Cell: (575) 447-1639
Fax: (575) 445-7154
Email link

County fire logo

Colfax County became one of the first Firewise Communities in New Mexico.
Visit to learn more.


 Volunteer Firefighter Program

All equipment and training is provided to become a Level One Certified Firefighter.
Contact the County Fire Marshal for more information.

Winter Holiday Safety
Tree Fire

As Christmas is approaching it is important to think fire safety with decorations and trees.  According to the U.S. Fire Administration, one-third of home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems and one-quarter start when the tree is placed too close to a heat source such as a fireplace, woodstove, radiator, or space heater.

Keep Tree away from heat: Make sure your tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like an airduct, fireplace or space heater.

Selecting a Tree: Natural trees should be given a fresh cut at the base and placed immediately in water. When purchasing a tree, buy one that is as fresh as possible. Tap the butt on the ground and grab a branch near the top and pull your hand along it slowly. Needles should not fall off. If you bend a needle and it breaks before bending in half, it’s too dry! If you use an artificial tree, select one with a flame-retardant label.

Caring for the Tree: Make a fresh cut an inch or two off the bottom before placing it in the stand. This will help with absorption. Water a live tree every day. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly.

Placing the Tree: Place your tree in a non-tip style with wide feet, using extra wires if needed to keep it steady. Keep doorways and exits clear. Place your tree and decorations away from heaters, fireplaces, candles, and other sources of heat.

Decorating the Tree: Purchase electric holiday lights that are listed by an approved testing agency and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Consider switching to new LED lights that are cooler and use less electricity. Before bringing out the older lights, inspect for frayed wires or other defects. Make sure the bulbs themselves are not touching the tree, curtains, wrapped gifts, and tree skirts. Never use lighted candles as decorations. Turn off the lights when leaving the house or going to bed for the night.

Disposing of the Tree: Remove your tree soon after the holidays and take advantage of the community curbside pick-up day, if available, or recycling programs.

Before Heading Out or To Bed: Blow out lit candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving home or going to bed.

The U. S. Fire Administration website has a stunning video from the National Institute of Standards and Training (NIST) illustrating how a dry Christmas tree can act like a blowtorch in your living room and the National Fire Protection Association has side-by-side video showing a dry Christmas tree on fire and a well-watered Christmas tree on fire. The fire in a well–watered tree takes much longer to progress.


Indoor/Outdoor Decorations

Examine Cords: Examine extension cords and lights for signs of damage. Frayed electric cords should be discarded.

Be sure to use only lights rated for outdoor use.

Consider replacing older outdoor lights with newer LED lights that are ‘greener’ and cooler.

Securely anchor outdoor lights and decorations against the wind and storms with insulated holders or hooks.

Use electrical connection protectors to keep water out.

All outdoor electrical decorations should be plugged into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). You can buy portable units for outdoor use, or you can have them permanently installed by an electrician.

Don’t overload circuits. 15 amp circuits support 1,800 watts and 20 amp circuits support 2,400 watts.

Do not drive nails, staples or tacks through wiring insulation; this can cause a fire.

Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and extend their life.


Fire Place and Wood Burning

Have the chimney inspected every year and have a professional clean it when necessary.

While this may seem like a needless expense, it can be helpful to your insurance rates to have your chimney W.E.T.T. (Wood Energy Technology Transfer) certified. As well, having your chimney cleaned and inspected on a regular basis can prevent costly repairs and fire damage.

Install a chimney cap to help ensure that animals or birds don’t block the chimney.

Chimneys can make the perfect place for raccoons, squirrels and other small animals and birds. Chimney caps with screens can prevent them from entering the chimney and causing an obstruction. As well, a chimney cap can prevent rain from penetrating into the chimney and eating away at the mortar and bricks.

Use a fireplace grate.

Concrete is a very durable surface, but even still, prolonged direct exposed to fire will ruin it. A fireplace grate allows for better protection of the fireplace by saving the floor from direct heat, saving you money on replacement costs and lengthening the fireplace life expectancy.

Have a fire extinguisher nearby and install both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Chimney fires are responsible for millions of dollars each year of home and content damage. Having a fire extinguisher nearby and having early detection of problems by a smoke or carbon monoxide detector can help you ensure the safety of your family.

Clean out the ashes after each fire

Give the ashes at least 24 hours to cool down before removing them from the fireplace. Store the ashes in a non-combustible container outside of the house until you can dispose of them properly.

Clear the area around the fireplace of flammable objects and materials.

Everyday objects like plastic toys & plants, papers and liquids like nail polish & removers are extremely flammable should be kept far away from your fireplace. Even a tiny spark can cause these objects to start on fire.

Do not close the damper until the embers have completely burned out.

Embers can remain hot for up to two days after a fire. The damper should stay open, even if there isn’t a fire burning, to prevent carbon monoxide from staying in your house. NEVER LEAVE YOUR FIRE UNATTENDED!

If you follow the above tips, your family can enjoy the crackling and beauty of a wood burning fire, all while feeling safe and protected.