Operation Holiday Safety
Every year the holiday season sneaks up on us and we are consumed with the activities of the season. It’s merriment, and the gathering of family and friends; the year-end holiday season is a joyous time of year indeed. But it is also the prime time for fires in residential settings. Included are civilian injuries and, in some cases, loss of lives.
Christmas trees and holiday lights
According to the National Fire Prevention Association’s report:
“NFPA estimates during 2006-2010, U.S. fire departments responded to an annual average of 230 home structure fires that began with Christmas trees. Home Christmas tree fires caused an average of four civilian deaths, 21 civilian injuries, and $17.3 million in direct property damage per year. During the same period, holiday lights and other decorative lighting with line voltage were involved in an estimated average of 160 home structure fires per year. These fires caused an average of nine civilian deaths, 13 civilian injuries, and $9 million in direct property damage per year.
Cooking is, and has long been, the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries. This is true for both fires reported to fire departments and those handled without fire department assistance. During the five-year period of 2007-2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 156,600 home structure fires in which cooking equipment was involved in the ignition. Unattended cooking was by far the leading contributing factor in these fires and fire deaths.
December is the peak time of year for home candle fires. Roughly one-third of home candle fires started in the bedroom and more than half of all candle fires start when things that can burn are too close to the candle. Youngsters are facinated with candles, so please remember to never leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle. Also keep matches and lighters up high and out of children’s reach, perferably in a locked cabinet. Lastly, think about using flameless candles in your home, they look and smell like real candles.
There is something about the winter months and curling up with a good book by the fireplace. But did you know that heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires? Half of home heating fires are reported during the months of December, January and February. Keeping anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove or portable space heater is a good way to help ensure your safety. Never use your oven to heat your home, and remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
• Be careful with holiday decorations. Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.
• Keep lit candles away from decorations and other things that can burn.
• Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
• Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini light sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of LED strands to connect.
• Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.
• Keep decorations away from windows and doors.
• Test your smoke alarms and tell guests about your home fire escape plan.
• Keep children and pets away from lit candles.
• Keep matches and lighters up high in a locked cabinet.
• Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stovetop.
• Ask smokers to smoke outside. Remind smokers to keep their smoking materials with them so young children do not touch them.
• Provide large, deep ashtrays for smokers. Wet cigarette butts with water before discarding.
Being careful and using the tips provided by NFPA above will help ensure a happy and fire-safe holiday season for you and your family.
All resource material provided by NFPA at NFPA.org
-Dennis Marshall, CET, FCO
Maitland Fire Rescue