Residential fires are more common, more costly, and more deadly during the holiday season than at any other time of the year. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there are twice as many fires on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day than on a typical day. Holiday fires cause 34 percent more property loss, and the number of deaths per thousand fires is almost 70 percent higher. Here are some tips to protect your home and your family this holiday season.
• The top cause of holiday fires is cooking and leaving food unattended. It is easy to get distracted and forget that something is on the stove. If you need to leave the kitchen, take a pot holder with you to remind you to go back into the kitchen to attend to the food.
• Keep a kitchen fire extinguisher that is rated for all types of fires.
• Check your smoke detectors and make sure they are working.
• If you plan to deep fry a turkey, do it outside on a level surface at least 10 feet from your house.
• Candle fires are four times more common during December than in any other month. Leave at least a foot of space between a candle and anything flammable.
• Put a candle on a sturdy base or cover it with a hurricane globe.
• Never leave a burning candle unattended.
• Before you go to bed, make sure all candles are blown out.
• Consider switching to flameless LED candles.
• Soot can harden on the walls of a chimney and form creosote, which is flammable. Have your chimney inspected before using it to see if it needs to be cleaned.
• Place a screen in front of your fireplace to keep embers off the floor or carpet.
• Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
• Burn only seasoned firewood, not wrapping paper.
• When you clean the fireplace, place embers in a metal container and set it outside to cool for 24 hours before disposing of it.
• A dry Christmas tree can engulf a room in flames in just 30 seconds. You can reduce the risk of a fire by buying a fresh tree with intact needles, getting a fresh cut on the trunk, and watering it daily. A well-watered tree is much less likely to catch fire.
• Keep the tree away from the fireplace or radiator and out of high-traffic areas. If you are using live garlands, keep them at least three feet away from a heat source.
• No matter how much you water your tree, it will dry out after about four weeks, so you should take it down after the holidays.
• If you buy an artificial tree, make sure it is flame-retardant.
• Inspect Christmas lights and throw away any that are damaged.
• Don’t run more than three strings of lights end to end.
• Make sure extension cords are in good condition and are UL-rated for use indoors or outdoors.
• Make sure outdoor ground fault interrupters don’t trip. If they trip repeatedly, they need to be replaced.
• If you hang lights outdoors, use UL-rated clips or hangers, not nails or staples. Take lights down within 90 days so squirrels do not chew on them.
• The number of fires and deaths caused by children playing with fire increases during the holiday season. Keep matches and lighters away from children.