Minimize Holiday Fire Risk

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This special season of holidays brings excitement, warmth and wonder to our family and friends. But this wondrous time of the year is not free of danger. According to the American Red Cross, almost 47,000 fires occur during the winter holidays, taking over 500 lives, injuring thousands of people, and resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage. The good news is that many holiday fire risk can be minimized with a little care and planning. Here are some suggestions if how to avoid some common causes of holiday fires.

1. Be safe with Christmas trees
If decorating a live tree, choose one that is freshly cut, with intact needles, and water daily to prevent it from becoming dry. Once it does begin to dry out and drop needles, it’s time to discard your tree. Although Christmas tree fires are not common, the explosiveness if dry trees makes them very dangerous if they do occur. Use a tree stand that can’t tip over and be sure to unplug tree lights overnight and whenever you leave the house. Place trees (and wreaths and garlands) at least three feet away from heat sources like fireplaces and radiators, and never use lit candles to decorate a tree. Check that artificial trees, as well as decorations, are made of flame retardant materials.


2. Give candles their distance
The U.S. Fire Administration ( USAF ) reports that 56% of candle fires happen because something flammable is left too close to a burning candle. Always keep candles at least a foot away from anything else that could catch fire like ornaments or curtains. If placing candles in windows, choose battery-powered lights . Don’t leave candles burning when you are asleep or away from home; in fact you should extinguish flames whenever you leave the room. Place candles on a non-flammable surface like a granite counter-top. If you must use a wood surface, lay aluminum foil or another flame-retardant material down first.

3.Beware of kitchen and cooking fires
Always keep a close eye on what you are cooking, and be vigilant about removing partially flammable items like oven mitts, wooden utensils, or food packaging from your stove top. Never leave a house when the oven is on. When deep frying turkeys or other holiday items, always protect your skin from oils, and remember that grease fires should be extinguished with baking soda, not water. Make sure to use your deep-fryer a safe distance from the house, and don’t over-fill it with oil.

4. Tend to lit fireplaces
If you don’t use your chimney often, have it inspected ahead of time to ensure it’s in safe working order. Burn only fry and seasoned wood, and use a screen to keep sparks from escaping into the room. Never leave a burning fire unattended, and don’t hang Christmas stockings or garlands on a fireplace that will be used to burn fires. Keep anything flammable, from gifts to slippers to throw rugs away from the fireplace.


5. Don’t underestimate the heat of smoldering embers
Long after a fire has burned out, its ashes can remain dangerously hot. Leave embers in the fireplace (damper open) until they are cool to the touch, then place them in a metal container and leave it outdoors, away from your house for at least 24 hours. Dump embers in a non-flammable surface like gravel, rather than on leaves or in the woods, just in case they are still holding on to any heat.

6. Use electronics responsibly
During this busy season, you are more likely to use appliances and electronics while distracted by other activities going on around the house. You can reduce the risk of a home fire during the holidays by following the same rules that you normally would at other times of the year. Also, be aware of heaters and don’t leave them unattended. And do not string multiple extension cords together, run cords under carpets, or overload your electrical outlets with more than they can handle.

In addition to the steps above, you can reduce a chance of a holiday fire by making sure you have installed smoke alarms that are in working order throughout your home. Pay especially close attention to children and pets when they are in the kitchen or around electronics, holiday decorations and open flames. Wishing you a Safe and Happy Holiday Season!

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