The holiday season is filled with the mention of cozy fires – stockings hung by them with care, chestnuts roasting over them – but unfortunately, it’s also filled with many painful and damaging fires: around 47,000 home fires occur throughout the winter holidays every year. Take some simple safety precautions to keep your home and family safe this season.
Two out of every home fires around the holidays are caused by lit candles. Candles are most often a problem when they are placed too close to other flammable materials, usually other decorations; keep them at least three feet away from things like plants (including the tree), garlands, stockings and curtains, as well as from other heat sources like a radiator. Keep them well out of reach of children, and put them in places where they aren’t likely to be knocked over or catch on a long sleeve or scarf. Before you go to bed or leave the house, go from room to room to make sure every last one has been put out.
Lights are a popular way to make a home feel festive and cozy, but while they seem harmless, they are dangerous if used incorrectly. Check the packaging to see if they’re intended for indoor or outdoor use, and don’t use them interchangeably – indoor lights aren’t designed for weather and water exposure, and outdoor lights may have higher voltage requirements. Make sure you don’t overload outlets, and replace any cord or light that is broken or frayed.
Christmas tree fires are less common than candle or electric fires, but they also tend to be more deadly. Don’t get your tree too early in the season, because it dries out the longer you leave it up; look for trees with springy green needles – dry or brown ones are a sign it’s already dried out and therefore more flammable. Put it in a bucket of water while you wait to set it up, and in the stand when it’s ready; check the levels daily to make sure there are always at least a couple of inches of water. Tree skirts should be made of flame-retardant material, but of course you still need to keep all open flames and heat sources away from the tree, and unplug the lights before going to bed.
You can’t always catch everything, so make sure your fire alarms are installed, have working batteries, and are functioning properly. Don’t let a fire ruin your holidays.
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