AFD sees uptick in fires during the month of December

It is the "Season of Giving" but, with two recent fires, local emergency responders are also handing out some advice on how to avoid having a holiday tragedy.

The flames that swept through a vacant building on east Riverside gutted what was once an automotive vo-tech school. The fire crossed over into part of the corporate headquarters of Thunder Cloud Subs. It was contained before reaching the main office area, according to CEO Patty Sughrue.

"It could have been really bad, all of our corporate records we keep here, I keep back-ups, of course, on our computer system. We would have been Ok but it would have been a lot of work.”

According to investigators the fire was started by a candle.

"They said there were two women sleeping, apparently living, camping out, in there,” said Sughrue.

Fire crews were also called out to a south Austin home on Texas Sun Drive.  Investigators say the fire was started by a cigarette. The family got out but they lost two pets.

Typically the Austin Fire Department has an uptick in fires during the month of December.  This year it’s been relatively mild, but a cold front is on the way.

Arriving at the scene of a burned out house is also an all too familiar sight for Mike Erhardt, who is in the home restoration business.

"It really is tragic this time of year, to be spending your holiday in a hotel room, or away from your family or somewhere else, losing all your presents and all of your belongings, essentially having our life turned upside down"

Because many holiday fires are preventable, Erhardt offered a few things to remember.

“I think people need to be aware of the maintenance issues in the home, make sure you've checked your heater and turned it on and run it or have a professional to come and look at it before winter comes out, make sure you are turning off your Christmas lights and put them on a timer and don’t have any of those funky connections those tend to be a problem,” said Erhardt.

Good advice for this time of year. Late night visits shouldn't be made by fire crews, but by Santa.