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Posted on: December 19, 2018

Put the Freeze on Holiday Fires

Holiday Candles

The holidays are a wonderful time of the year.  They also pose some unique challenges when it comes to fire safety!  Here’s a big round-up of tips to help you keep your holidays merry and bright this year – without an accidental house fire!  The five situations below all pose a fire safety threat that can be minimized with proper planning and prevention:

Christmas Trees

Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious. On average, one of every 45 reported home Christmas tree fires results in a death compared to an average of one death per 139 total reported home fires.  25% of Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems.  Another 25% of Christmas tree fires are caused by a heat source too close to the tree.  Keep your home and family safe this season by following these tips for Christmas tree safety.

  • Fresh trees are less likely to catch fire, so look for a tree with vibrant green needles that are hard to pluck and don’t break easily from its branches. The tree shouldn’t be shedding its needles readily.
  • Always place your tree away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights, and keep the tree base filled with water to avoid a dry out.
  • Make sure all your indoor and outdoor Christmas lights have been tested in a lab by the UL or ETL/ITSNA for safety, and throw out any damaged lights.
  • Any lights you use outdoors must be labeled suitable for exterior placement, and be sure to plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter protected receptacle.
  • Keep all your holiday candles away from your Christmas tree, surrounding furniture and décor.
  • Bedtime means lights off! ¬ Don’t forget to turn your Christmas tree lights off each night.

Candles

The top three days for home candle fires are Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Christmas Eve.  Candles start two out of five home decoration structure fires.  Follow these tips to help avoid candle fires this holiday season:

  • Always keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that burns.
  • Never fall asleep with a candle burning.
  • Always blow out candles before leaving home or leaving the room.
  • Never leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle.
  • Use candle holders that are sturdy, and won’t tip over easily.
  • Put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface.
  • Light candles carefully. Keep your hair and any loose clothing away from the flame.
  • Don’t burn a candle all the way down — put it out before it gets too close to the holder or container.
  • Never use a candle if oxygen is used in the home.

Christmas Lights

Lights and other holiday decorations can pose an additional source of fire danger during the holidays if used incorrectly.  Follow these tips to prevent fires due to holiday lights:

  • Read manufacturer’s instructions for the maximum number of light strands it is safe to connect and do not exceed this recommendation.  Usually, you should not plug more than three sets of lights into an extension cord, but it depends on the strand’s wattage and the maximum watt capacity of the plug.  Consider using a power strip with a built-in circuit breaker to plug in lights.
  • Replace old or damaged Christmas lights.  Before plugging in lights, inspect them to check for cracked or frayed cords, wires poking through the insulation and sockets without bulbs.
  • Switch to LED lights.  LED lights are cool to the touch compared to traditional lights and less likely to overheat.
  • Keep your Christmas tree hydrated so that if your lights do overheat they are less likely to catch the tree on fire.
  • Look for lights with a UL Safety Certification.
  • Do not use indoor-only lights outside.
  • Do not run Christmas lights through windows or doors.  When the window of door is closed on the light strand, it could cause the wire to become frayed or break.
  • Do not leave lights on for prolonged periods of time.  Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for length of use.

Holiday Cooking Fires

Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.

  • Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol don’t use the stove or stovetop. 
  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove. 
  • If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking. 
  • Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains – away from your stovetop.

If you have a small (grease) cooking fire and decide to fight the fire...

  • On the stovetop, smother the flames by sliding a lid over the pan and turning off the burner. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
  • For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

If you have any doubt about fighting a small fire…

  • Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
  • Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number from outside the home.

Chimney Fires

With temperatures dropping, having a cozy fire in the fireplace can be a real treat!  However, if your chimney is not cleaned regularly, a chimney fire could be a potential concern. Chimney fires can burn explosively, which can cause severe damage to the chimney and ignite the nearby combustible parts of your home.

  • Have your chimney inspected and cleaned at least once a year by a chimney professional. A chimney professional will make sure your chimney is structurally sound and will remove creosote buildup and any other debris (such as animal nests).
  • Only burn dried-out wood – cardboard, trash, or other objects can burn very quickly and the flames can get out of control.
  • Keep your fireplace doors opened or cracked when burning a fire, as restricted air supply can cause creosote buildup.
  • Stay on the lookout for signs of chimney fires. Indications of chimney fires include dense smoke and a loud rumbling noise (often compared to a freight train). If you think you have a chimney fire, get everyone safely out of your home and call the fire department immediately.
  • It is important to note that some chimney fires are slow-burning and may not make loud noises or have lots of smoke. These can cause damage to your home as well and weaken the structure of your chimney.

Chimney fires often lead to house fires. It’s important to follow safe fire-burning practices and keep regular maintenance on your chimney.


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