Season’s Greetings! As You Deck the Halls This Season, Be "Fire Smart”
Festive celebrations, flickering lights, and winter greens are hallmarks of the holiday season. Decorating the house and especially the Christmas tree, are some of the best ways to get into the holiday mood. But at the same time, these activities also present fire hazards that can quickly turn this festive time of year into a devastating one.
According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), during the holiday season, emergency rooms see thousands of injuries involving holiday decorating. From 2014 to 2016, there were about 100 Christmas tree fires and about 1,100 candle fires, resulting in 10 deaths, 150 injuries, and nearly $50 million in property damage each of those years.
During the holiday season, candles, fireplaces, as well as combustible, seasonal decorations in homes, are fire starters. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that one-third of home decoration fires are started by candles and that two of every five decoration fires happen because the decorations are placed too close to a heat source. On the same lines, a small fire that spreads to a Christmas tree can grow large very quickly. Christmas trees are combustible items that become increasingly flammable as they continue to dry out in your home. This is why more than one-quarter (29%) of home fires that begin with Christmas trees occur in January. Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious.
In order to be fire smart this festive season, follow these tips recommended by the U.S Consumer Products Safety Commission:
- Keep potentially poisonous plants – mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry, and amaryllis – away from children;
- If using an artificial tree, check that it is labeled “fire resistant;”
- If using a live tree, cut off about 2 inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for better water absorption, remember to water it and remove it from your home when it is dry;
- Place your tree at least 3 feet away from fireplaces, radiators, and other heat sources, making certain not to block doorways;
- Avoid placing breakable ornaments or ones with small, detachable parts on lower tree branches where small children can reach them;
- Only use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outdoors;
- Choose the right ladder for the task when hanging lights;
- Replace light sets that have broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections;
- Never nail, tack, or stress wiring when hanging lights and keep plugs off the ground away from puddles and snow;
- Turn off all lights and decorations when you go to bed or leave the house;
- Place candles where they cannot be knocked down or blown over and out of reach of children;
- Use flameless rather than lighted candles near flammable objects;
- Don't burn trees, wreaths, or wrapping paper in the fireplace;
- Use a screen on the fireplace at all times when a fire is burning;
- Never leave candles or fireplaces burning unattended or when you are asleep; and
- Check and clean the chimney and fireplace area at least once a year.
The NFPA also provides a wealth of safety information to help ensure the holiday season is a safe one.