Season’s greetings! As we celebrate the holidays, it’s important to keep in mind that holiday decorations like trees, lights, and candles increase the risk of home fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than one-third of home decoration fires are started by candles, with Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day being the top three days for candle fires. In addition, more than two of every five fires related to holiday decorations happen because they are placed too close to a heat source. The holidays are also a time when home cooking fires are more likely to occur.
- Candles: Place candles where they cannot be knocked down or blown over. Keep children and pets away from all lit candles, and keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children. It’s also important to keep candles away from other things that can burn. Flameless, rather than lighted, candles should be used near flammable objects. Don’t forget to blow out lit candles when leaving the room or going to sleep.
- Christmas trees: If buying a real tree, make sure it’s fresh with green needles that don’t fall off when touched. Before putting it in the tree stand, cut off about two inches from the bottom of the trunk to expose fresh wood for better water absorption, and water daily. Keep the tree at least three feet away from fireplaces, radiators, heat vents, and other sources of heat or open flames. Remove it from your home after the holidays, or when it becomes dry. If using an artificial tree, make sure it has a fire-resistant label.
- Holiday lights: Make sure lights used indoors are made for indoor use and those used outside are for outdoor use. Plug all outdoor lights into an outlet that has ground fault circuit interrupter protection. Don’t nail or tack cords when hanging lights as this can damage the cord; use hooks or clips instead. Check holiday light cords to make sure they aren’t frayed or broken, or have loose bulb connections. Always replace old or worn-out light strands. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the number of light strands to connect─ generally no more than three. Turn off holiday lights when going to sleep or leaving the house.
- Fireplaces: Use a screen on the fireplace at all times when a fire is burning and make sure the flue is open. Don’t burn trees, wreaths, or wrapping paper in the fireplace. If hanging stockings on the fireplace mantel, don’t light the fireplace. Don’t leave fireplaces burning unattended or when you’re asleep. Have your chimney inspected annually and cleaned when necessary, depending on use.
- Holiday cooking: The three leading days for home fires caused by cooking are Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Christmas Eve. Remember to stay in the kitchen when frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling food. If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, remain at home while the food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking. Keep anything that can catch fire such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, and towels away from your stovetop. For additional information on cooking safety tips, check out this year’s Thanksgiving blog.
Celebrate this holiday season safely by following these tips. Also, remember to test your smoke alarms to make sure they’re working. They should be located in each bedroom, outside sleeping areas, and on every level, including the basement.
From all of us at Safety Partners, we wish you a happy and safe holiday season.
This blog was written by Beth Graham, Director of Quality, Research, and Training