According to the American Red Cross, winter holiday fires claim more than 500 lives each year and cause approximately $554 million in property damage. We put together some essential winter holiday fire safety tips to help reduce those numbers. Follow these suggestions from our fire restoration experts, and keep your family, home, pets and belongings safe this holiday season and throughout the New Year.
Winter Fire Causes
During the winter and all through the holidays, there are several seasonal factors that can increase the risk of fire in your home. These factors range from increased fireplace and candle usage to Christmas tree fire hazards. As beautiful as these light touches may be, it's important to keep certain holiday fire safety tips in mind. General holiday fire safety includes:
- Never leave a room when a candle is burning. Candle fires are four times more likely to occur during the holidays.
- Never burn wrapping paper, garbage or other debris in your fireplace.
- Always supervise children around fireplaces, wood burning stoves and any open flames, even candles.
- Check your space heater before using it. If it's not operating correctly or the cord is damaged in any way, don't use it.
- Test every smoke detector in the house and make sure all of them have charged batteries. A September 2015 report by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) stated that the death rate per 100 reported home fires was more than twice as high in homes that did not have any working smoke alarms compared to the rate in homes with working smoke alarms (1.18 deaths vs. 0.53 deaths per 100 fires).
Holiday Fire Safety Tips
The winter holidays can be the busiest time of year for many households. There are family activities, community events and parties to attend, and you may even be hosting a gathering or two in your own home. Kids are excited, the days are short and there seems to be a never-ending list of things to get done. However, now is not the time to ignore or forget about basic holiday fire safety, which includes Christmas tree fire safety.
Christmas Tree Fire Safety:
- Live trees need to be fresh and stay fresh until removed from your home. Look for a tree with needles that pull back easily from the branches but don't break. Tap your tree on the ground. If it sheds a ton of needles, it's not fresh.
- Keep a freshly cut tree watered so it doesn't dry out and become a fire hazard. Or, use a potted live tree and plant a memory from this Christmas season to grow for years to come.
- Never place your Christmas tree near a fireplace, wood burning stove or other open flame.
- Never place real, burning candles on your Christmas tree as decorations.
- Christmas trees should not block doorways or exit routes, in case of a fire.
- Only buy fire-resistant artificial trees.
- Inspect all strands of Christmas lights before placing them on your tree. Look for fraying wires and other damage.
- Never use more than three sets of light strands per one extension cord.
- Check all extension cords for damage or fraying; don't overload a single electrical outlet.
- If you're going to be away from home, turn off the Christmas tree lights and consider unplugging all non-essential electronics and appliances.
- Keep lit candle displays at least three feet away from the tree.
- Only decorate a tree with non-combustible or flame-resistant decorations.
Outdoor Decoration Fire Safety
Just because your decorations are outside doesn't mean you can ignore specific holiday fire safety precautions. Be sure that any extension cords you use outside are labeled for outdoor use. Look on the label and packaging to determine whether your cord is made for the outdoors. All outdoor lights need to be fastened securely to your home's porch, columns, gutters, surrounding trees or other supports that will stay secure, even in blustery conditions. Always plug outdoor lights and electric decorations into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet or use a surge protector for safety. Visit our blog for more seasonal tips and all-around advice from the restoration professionals at your local ServiceMaster Restore®.