Did you know that one quarter of home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems (NFPA)? Moreover, the U.S. Fire Administration claims that December is the peak of the year for home candle fires. Although holiday gatherings are filled with joy and cheer, they can soon turn dangerous if a holiday fire decides to make an appearance. What kind of holiday fires can spoil the fun?
Unattended cooking is the most common cause of holiday fires. It is easy to get distracted when you are surrounded with family and friends. Make sure to set timers to appropriate cooking times to avoid overcooking. Ensure the presence of a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, rated for all types of fires. It is important to also be cautious when children are present. Martha Stewart suggests, “Make sure kids stay at least three feet away from the stove and oven, hot food, and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy, or coffee could cause serious burns.” In addition, regularly check that the smoke detector is working. According to NFPA, “In 2014, the three leading dates for home structure fires caused by cooking were: Thanksgiving, Christmas day, and Christmas Eve.”
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, December is the peak of the year (4x higher than other months) for candle fires. Houselogic suggests maintaining a foot of distance between a candle and any object that could burn. In addition, set candles on sturdy bases. Never leave the room with a lit candle. Make sure to blow out all candles before sleeping, leaving to room, or becoming distracted. For a worry-free candle experience, consider purchasing the flameless LED candles. The National Candles Associaton states, “In December, 11% of home candle fires began with decorations, compared to 4% the rest of the year.” NOTE: If you purchased a Yankee Candle (Luminous Collection), between September and November, your candle may be recalled due to breaking glass jars.
Cable Organizer suggests purchasing UL-listed Christmas Lights. Moreover, when purchasing lights, make sure they are rated for the outdoors. Placing indoor lights outside can cause electric shock and fire hazards. Cable Organizer states, “Whether they’re brand-new out of the box or seasoned veterans from holidays past, before you put them up, inspect all lights, electric decorations and extension cords for signs of damage to wire insulation, plugs, and bulbs.” If the damage can be repaired (such as bulbs), use the item only after it has been repaired. If the cords or plugs are damaged, immediately discard and replace the item. Always unplug the lights before changing bulbs or replacing fuses.
U.S. Fire Administration states, “Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious. On average, one of every 31 reported home Christmas tree fires results in a death compared to an average of one death per 144 total reported home fires.” When purchasing a tree, ensure the tree is fresh (with needles intact) and water it regularly. According to Houselogic, a dry tree can engulf the room in flames in 30 seconds. If you regularly water your Christmas tree, it becomes nearly impossible to ignite. Moreover, “Keep the tree away from heat sources, such as a fireplace or radiator” (Houselogic). Any natural Christmas tree will start do dry out after four weeks. It is wise to dispose of your Christmas tree right after the holidays to avoid holiday fires.
It is important to get your chimney inspected to check if it needs cleaning. According to Houselogic, it is important to screen your fireplace to avoid carpet fires from embers that pop out of your chimney. Never utilize flammable liquids to start the fireplace and only burn season wood. If you live in Agoura Hills, the city has issued a “no burn” order. This means that indoor and outdoor wood burning will be prohibited, due to pollution concerns. According to the Agoura Hills Patch, “Fine particles in wood smoke can penetrate deep into lungs, causing problems for people with asthma or other respiratory disorders.” This “no burn” order applies to residents of South Coast Air Basin, Greater Los Angeles Area, Orange County, and Inland Empire. This order excludes Coachella Valley and residents that live 3,000 ft in elevation or have no other sources of heat.
Remember – Many holiday fires can be avoided if the necessary precautions are taken! Always be alert of potential fires, mostly when cooking or when lighting a candle or fireplace. Don’t allow a holiday fire to ruin your holiday cheer!
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Carli, L. (2015). 8 Simple Fire Safety Tips We All Need to Follow This Holiday Season. Retrieved December 13, 2016, from http://www.marthastewart.com/1500952/simple-fire-safety-tips-follow-this-holiday-season
(n.d.). Holiday Safety Tips: Preventing Fire and Electrical Hazards from Lights, Electric Decorations and Christmas Trees. Retrieved December 13, 2016, from http://www.cableorganizer.com/articles/holiday-safety-tips.html
Curry, P. (2016). Holiday Fire Safety Tips. Retrieved December 13, 2016, from https://www.houselogic.com/home-thoughts/holiday-fire-safety-tips/
Fire Safety & Candles – National Candle Association. (n.d.). Retrieved December 13, 2016, from http://candles.org/fire-safety-candles/
Holiday, candle and Christmas tree fire safety outreach materials. (n.d.). Retrieved December 13, 2016, from https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/holiday.html
Socal, P. (2016). No Fireplace Fires for Agoura Hills During Wintry Nights, Officials Issue No-Burn Order. Retrieved December 13, 2016, from http://patch.com/california/agourahills/no-fireplace-fires-agoura-hills-during-wintry-nights-officials-issue-no-burn
Winter holiday fires by the numbers. (n.d.). Retrieved December 13, 2016, from http://www.nfpa.org/public-education/by-topic/wildfire-and-seasonal-fires/winter-holiday-safety/holiday-fires-by-the-numbers