Residential fires during the holiday season are more common and more deadly than at any other time of the year. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) reports more than double the number of open-flame fires on Christmas Day than on an average day, and about twice as many on New Year’s Day. To keep your home, family, and visitors safe, here are the fire dangers to watch for this holiday season.
According to the USFA, cooking is the top cause of holiday fires. The most common culprit is food that’s left unattended. With the holidays, families visit and things get busy. Understandably, it’s easy to get distracted but make sure if you are cooking something on the stove that you don’t leave the kitchen and keep a fire extinguisher that’s rated for all types of fires nearby.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, four of the five most dangerous days of the year for residential candle fires are Christmas/Christmas Eve and New Year’s/New Year’s Eve. Fires that start by candles are four times higher during December than during other months of the year. If you light candles for the holidays, maintain about a foot of space between the candle and anything that can burn. Make sure the candle is on a sturdy base and never leave flames unattended. Before bed, walk through each room to make sure candles are blown out.
If you prefer candles because of the light, you can try using flameless LED candles instead. If you like candles for the scents, you can try use a candle warmer with wax. Both of these option will allow you to not worry about any flames.
According to the Building and Fire Research Laboratory of the National Institute for Standards and Technology, it takes less than 30 seconds for a dry tree to engulf a room in flames. Tom Olshanski, spokesman for the USFA said “They make turpentine out of pine trees. A Christmas tree is almost explosive when it goes.” To minimize risk, buy a fresh tree, get a fresh cut on the trunk, and water it every day. Keep your tree away from heat sources and take it down after the holidays because all trees will start to dry out after about four weeks. Artificial trees don’t pose much of a fire hazard; just make sure yours is flame-retardant.
Inspect string lights and throw out any with frayed or cracked wires or broken sockets. When decorating, don’t run more than three strings of lights end to end. Extension cords should be in good condition and UL-rated for indoor and outdoor use. When hanging lights outside, avoid using nails or staples which can damage the wiring and increase risk of fire.
Kids Playing with Matches
The number of fires and deaths caused by children playing with fire increases significantly during the holidays. From January to March, 13% of fire deaths are the result of children playing with fire and in December, that percentage doubles, the USFA reports. So you’ll want to keep matches and lighters out of kids’ reach.
Soot can harden on chimney walls as flammable creosote, so before the fireplace season begins, have your chimney inspected to see if it needs cleaning. You’ll want to screen the fireplace while it is lit and never use flammable liquids to start the fire. Only burn seasoned wood in your fireplace–no wrapping paper.
The holidays are an amazing time filled with love and joy so you’ll want to keep your family safe. By following these tips, you can minimize the risk of fires and make great memories with your loved ones.