Christmas is a joyous season, accentuated with carols, cookies, good cheer, and lots of decorations! But unfortunately, house fires do not take a break during Christmas. In fact, some of the decorations we all love can be the main culprits of devastating fires! The National Fire Protection Administration, NFPA, says, in fact, that there are almost 400 home fires resulting from Christmas trees, Christmas lights, and other decorations each year, resulting in in an average of 21 deaths. Each year. Be sure you don’t have to deal with holiday tragedies, check out these tips to help minimize the risk of fire during the Christmas season:
- Keep your Christmas tree watered! Christmas trees account for hundreds of home fires annually. Typically, shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters, or matches start tree fires. Well-watered trees are not a problem, but a dry and neglected tree can be!
- When selecting a live tree, there are a few things to look for: Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground—if many needles fall off, the tree has been cut to long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.
- Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame, or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. And again, keep the tree stand filled with water at all times!
- After Christmas has passed, do not burn any part of your Christmas tree in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
- Inspect Christmas lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
- Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires—they should not be warm to the touch.
- Use only exterior-rated Christmas lights outdoors.
- All decorations should be non-flammable or flame-retardant, and placed away from heat vents and sources of flame. If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
- Ensure that trees and other Christmas decorations do not block an exit way, including windows. In the event of a fire, time is of the essence. A blocked entry/exit way puts you and your family at risk.
- Never burn wrapping paper in the fireplace! Wrapping paper in the fireplace can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers that may result in a chimney fire.
- Never leave a candle burning unattended. Consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look, smell, and feel like real candles.
- If you do use lit candles, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Keep candles at least twelve inches from anything that can burn. Avoid using candles in bedrooms and sleeping areas.
- Never put lit candles on a tree. In fact, never go near a Christmas tree with an open flame . . . candles, lighters, or matches!