Each year fires occurring during the holiday season injure 2,600 individuals and cause over $930 million in damage. By following some of the outlined precautionary tips, individuals can greatly reduce their chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty.
Avoid Using Lit Candles
If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never leave the house with candles burning.
Never Put Lit Candles on a Tree
Do not go near a holiday tree with an open flame - candles, lighters or matches.
Inspect holiday lights each year before putting them up for:
- Bare Spots
- Broken or Cracked Sockets
- Excessive Kinking or Wear
- Frayed Wires
- Gaps in the Insulation
Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory. Do not leave holiday lights on unattended.
Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets
Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires - they should not be warm to the touch.
- Use Only Nonflammable Decorations: All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.
- Never Put Wrapping Paper in a Fireplace: It can throw off dangerous sparks and produce a chemical buildup in the home that could cause an explosion.
- Artificial Holiday Trees: If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
Special fire safety precautions need to be taken when keeping a live tree in the house. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases.
Selecting a Tree for the Holiday
Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needle should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.
Caring for Your Tree
Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
Disposing of Your Tree
Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or woodburning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to the transfer station.
As in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Know when and how to call for help. And remember to practice your home escape plan.