To help you stay safe and enjoy seasonal delights, below are five common holiday hazards and tips on how to prevent home fires associated with each.
1. Christmas Tree Safety
Why are Christmas trees such a hazard in the home? If Christmas trees are dry and brittle or artificial and flammable, it increases the potential for a fire to start. Between 2013-2017,
U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of three deaths, 15 injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage annually. On average, one of every 52 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 135 total reported home fires. Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 44% of home Christmas tree fires.
Here are several tips for how to safely set up and maintain your Christmas tree.
- If you get a live tree, it is best if it is freshly cut and has green needles—a sign that it is healthy and alive. Water it regularly to keep it hydrated and it helps to extend its life. If a tree begins to dry out and shed needles, you should dispose of the tree.
- If you put the tree up closer to Christmas, cut off the bottom and then place it in at least a half-gallon of water.
- Make sure artificial trees are flame retardant. If the tree is pre-lit, check the strands of lights to make sure they are in good condition and safe for use. Throw away and replace it with a new artificial tree, if you see the is any frayed wires.
- Place your Christmas tree at least three feet away from the nearest heat source. Typically, this would be candles, fires, heating vents, radiators and space heaters.
- Use a sturdy tree stand with a wide base and secure the tree to the stand. The proper setup of your tree will ensure it doesn’t fall over into a heating source.
- Never use candles on your tree.
- Unplug the lights before you leave the house or go to bed. Or put them on an automatic timer.
2. Holiday Decoration Safety
Holiday decorations cause an average of 860 home fires, 1 death, 41 injuries and $13.4 million property damage each year, according to the NFPA.
If you plan to string lights or other electrical holiday decorations around your home, consider the following safety tips.
- If you live in an older home, have your electrical wiring checked to ensure you can safely plug-in and run interior and exterior lights.
- Check light set boxes for amperage, and determine the limitations of your outlets. Homes are typically equipped with 20-amp circuits. Generally speaking, do not load a circuit over 80% of its capacity—i.e. 20-amp circuits can safely support 16 amp lights.
- Connect no more than three strands of mini lights to one another or to a single extension cord. For screw-in bulbs, the maximum is 50.
- Inspect each strand of lights to ensure they are in good condition—look for broken bulbs, frayed wires and burn marks that might indicate damage. Replace any strands that show signs of damage.
- Always unplug tree and house lights before you leave your home or go to bed.
3. Deep Fryers
According to the NFPA, deep fryer fires result in more than $15 million in property damage each year. Cooking oil is combustible when heated beyond its cooking temperature. To deep fry a turkey, oil is heated to temperatures of 350 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. At this temperature, deep fryers present a real threat to your home if it ignites.
4. Be Careful with Candle Placement
Candles are a great, natural way to light up your home. However, they are also a common cause of holiday fires. Candles present a particular danger over the holiday season. Here are some tips on how to reduce the chance of a fire.
- Always keep an eye on the candle and blow it out if you leave the room.
- Place candles far away from flammable items– paper, curtains, drapes, etc.
- Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets that could knock them over.
5. Clean your Chimney
Fireplaces are great sources for additional heat, but forgetting to open the damper or clean out the ash increases the risk of fire. Make sure you have a professional chimney cleaner clean your chimney at least once a year. They can sweep out the ashes and clean out any flammable creosote trapped in the flue of your chimney. You should also have a screen or door in front of a fire to prevent hot wood and sparks from escaping and catching paper, rugs, or other cloth items on fire.