Colorful decorations, twinkling lights, scented candles and of course Christmas trees help make the holiday season festive, but these same items can also increase the risk of home fires.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), each year firefighters respond to an average of 170 home fires that are reportedly caused by Christmas trees, and some 800 fires that start from holiday decorations (not including trees).
“The winter months are the leading time of year for home fires which are typically sparked by cooking, candles, holiday decorations and home heating sources,” explained David Kurasz, Executive Director of NJFSAB. “One of every 45 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death. Even one death is too many, especially when a little prior planning and increased awareness can help prevent these fires from occurring.”
Here are some simple tips families can use to help prevent home fires this holiday season.
- Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
- Keep the tree hydrated and add water daily. Tip: Use of ice cubes, they melt and are easier to place into the tree stand and help avoid spilling water.
- Keep the tree, and decorations, at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
- Use lights appropriately: some are only for indoor or outdoor use, and check that they have been laboratory tested (such as UL).
- Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulbs, and check manufacturer’s guidelines for the number of strands to connect.
- Use clips, not nails, to hang lights to reduce cord damage.
- Do not overload electrical outlets.
- Choose flame-retardant decorations.
- Avoid using lit candles on trees and near curtains and other flammable materials, or in the presence of small children (opt for safer battery-operated candles).
- Always turn off Christmas tree lights and blow out candles before leaving home or going to bed.
- When cooking, remove flammable items from cooking areas and do not leave the kitchen unattended.
- Make sure the tree and other decorations are not blocking an exit.
- Check to make sure your smoke alarms are in working order.
According to Kurasz, families that have fire sprinklers installed in their homes definitely have an advantage when it comes to fire protection. “Fire sprinklers can reduce the can reduce the risk of dying in a fire by 80 percent, and reduce property loss by 70 percent. Sprinklers help contain the spread of the fire and give people more time to safely escape when fire breaks out.” He added, “Many single and dual family homes in New Jersey don’t have sprinklers, but that can be rectified easily for less than the cost per square foot of a granite counter top.”
Here are some safety resources: