The holiday season is a great time for getting together with family and friends, but during this time of year, residential fires are a real concern. Fires in the home are much more frequent and tend to cause far more damage to property than at other times of the year, with fatalities being 70% higher.
Fires caused by Christmas trees are an issue over the holiday season. Christmas tree fires are far more deadly than other types of fire in the home. On average, one death occurs per every 143 home fires, but in the case of Christmas tree fires, one in 32 fires results in a fatality.
Around 25% of Christmas tree fires happen due to faulty electrical lights and another 25% of Christmas tree fires are due to the tree being too close to a heat source. Another factor in holiday fires is candle use, which, while looking pretty, can be deadly. Candles are the cause of 40% of home decoration fires.
There are, however, lots of safety tips you can take to keep your home and family safe. Here are some tips you can take:
What is Christmas without a Christmas tree? However, this festive addition to your home could be a potential killer. A dry Christmas tree can burst into flames in less than 30 seconds. Christmas trees are so flammable that pine trees are actually used to make turpentine!
Dry trees are not the safest choice; a better choice is a fresh tree. You should pick a tree that is fresh and cut at the trunk. Make sure that the tree has intact needles and ensure that you water the tree daily to keep it fresh and moist. As long as the tree is kept well-watered then there is little chance it will catch fire.
You should also make sure that you position the tree in an area of your home away from heat sources. Place it in a corner of the room well away from radiators and fireplaces. Even a well-watered tree will dry out after four weeks so you should make sure you dispose of your tree after the holiday season is over.
Artificial trees are also a safe option and pose little risk to your home in terms of being a fire hazard. Artificial trees are specially manufactured and most should be flame-retardant. When choosing an artificial tree to ensure that it is from a reputable manufacturer and it is clearly labeled that it is made from flame-retardant materials.
When you are reusing your decorations that have been stored since last year you should first of all inspect them carefully. Just because they have been stored away safely in your loft does not mean they are safe to use. It could be that they have perhaps been damaged over the year by a rodent in your loft. You should look out for any wires that have frayed and any sockets that are not fully intact. Discard any light strings that are not in good condition.
Test that the light strings are working before decorating the tree. It is recommended that you do not use more than three strings of lights from one end to the next. When you to go to bed in the evening ensure that the lights are switched off at the power source and unplugged.
If you want to use a lot of lights then you should stack the plugs. Make sure that any extension cords you are using are UL-rated and once again inspect them to make sure that they are in good working order.
If you are decorating the exterior of your home with lights, ensure that the extension cord you are using is suitable for outdoors. Don’t use staples or nails to attach the light strings to your home as these can be a fire hazard if the wiring is damaged. You can purchase UL-rated clips to secure the lights to the outside of your house.
When you have gone to a lot of trouble to decorate your home it seems a shame to take them down but it is advised that lights are removed within three months. Leaving the lights any longer means that they are at high risk of either being damaged by weather or outdoor-dwelling rodents such as squirrels could gnaw their way through the wires. You should also test outdoor receptacles to ensure that the ground fault interrupters do not trip.
In terms of holiday fires, the main cause is cooking. With friends and family gathered and lots of dishes being prepared it is all too easy to leave cooking food unattended which is the main reason that fires occur. It is recommended that you have a fire extinguisher (that is suitable for all types of fire) in the kitchen to deal immediately with any fires. Make sure you know where your extinguisher is stored and how to use it.
Remember to keep any items that could catch fire away from the stove, this includes items such as grocery bags and paper towels. Wipe away any spills especially grease as and when they happen. You should also have a smoke alarm installed in the kitchen that it is in working order with working batteries.
Many people enjoy a fried turkey over the festive season but fires from turkey-fryers can result in burns, carbon monoxide poisoning as well as explosions. It is recommended that, if you wish to fry a turkey, then you invest in an oil-free turkey-fryer. If you do want to deep-fry your turkey this holiday, then you should do so outside.
Place the turkey-fryer on a flat stable surface and ensure that is a good distance from your home in case it does catch fire. Make sure it is at least 10 feet from your home.
Not surprisingly, with candles being used as decorative features particularly during the holiday season candle fires are four times more likely to arise in the month of December. You can reduce your risk of candles setting fire to your home by taking simple steps.
You should never leave candles unattended and you should not go to sleep with a candle left burning. If you have children in the home you should ensure that candles are placed on high surfaces well out of reach of curious fingers.
Place candles on a stable surface so that there is no chance they can fall over and catch fire to your home. When arranging candles you should pay attention to safety rather than aesthetics and ensure there is at least one feet space between the candle and anything it could catch fire too.
Make sure that the candles are not close to your Christmas tree or other decorations such as wreaths. You can use a hurricane globe to cover candles but the safest option is to choose LED candles
During the holiday season, another cause of fires is the use of fireplaces. Over the year whilst your fireplace is unused soot can build up on the walls of your chimney creating creosote, which is flammable. You should have your chimney inspected before you use it again and if it needs cleaning then have that done before you use it. When the fire is lit you should always use a fireguard so that burning embers are contained and do not set fire to surrounding areas.
Don’t burn paper or Christmas trees and do not use flammable liquids to start the fire. When cleaning out the ash from your fireplace, make sure you have a metal container to collect the ashes. Before disposing of the ashes you should leave the embers for 24 hours in the metal container.
Kids Playing with Matches
Another common cause of house fires is children playing with matches. Children love to strike matches but the results can be tragic. In a recent USFA report, it was noted that 13% of fire deaths from January through to March are the result of children getting their hands on matches. In December, this statistic doubles
Don’t be one of these statistics by taking simple steps. If you do not need matches then do not keep them in the home. They should be stored away in locked boxes after use so that children cannot get hold of them. If you smoke and use cigarette lighters then do not leave several lighters around the home.
Invest in one good lighter and keep it with you in a pocket or store it away after use. Consider giving up your smoking habit for the good of all. Check out electronic vaporizers or seek medical advice to give up your smoking habit.
General Fire Safety
You should make sure that your home is fully fitted with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors all around the home. You should have smoke detectors in the kitchen, lounge, and bedrooms or anywhere a fire could start. You should test these regularly and before the holiday season. Ensure that the batteries are changed frequently so that they are in full working order.
During the winter months, you may use additional heaters so ensure that these are in a safe working condition. Have appliances tested by a registered professional. You could also consider a home alarm system that in the event of a fire will alert the local Fire Department so that help will be on its way in the event that you are overcome from smoke inhalation.
In the event of a fire, all family members should have a plan and know what to do and where the nearest exit is.