Many parts of the country have seen their first snowflakes of the season already, which means winter is fast approaching. With winter comes the steady parade of holidays and family get-togethers filled with good food, joyful company, and children’s laughter. Carefully placed lights glitter in the front garden, and the Christmas tree stands proudly in the family room, ready to get buried in gifts. While the children go to bed each night dreaming of Santa and his reindeer, you should be thinking of ways to keep your house and family safe from fires this holiday season.
The American Red Cross offers homeowners some somber statistics from 2013 regarding holiday fires. Perhaps the most sobering stat is that more than 500 lives were lost in the 47,000 holiday fires across the nation last season. You can take simple steps to protect your home and family from this fate.
First, be smart with your Christmas tree. Metallic flame-retardant artificial trees will keep you safest, but if you insist on having a real tree, choose one with fresh green needles and always keep it watered. Stand the tree far from any heating appliance, including fireplaces, stoves, space heaters, and radiators. Only use lights designated for trees on the Christmas tree, and only then if the lights are in good repair. Avoid overloading outlets with extension cords, and turn tree lights off when you leave the house or go to bed. Also, never use candles to light a Christmas tree. Some people like to burn their Christmas trees and wreaths at the end of the season, but the needles burn hot and fast and can potentially cause a chimney fire.
Candles actually start four times as many fires throughout the holiday season than during the rest of the year. For this reason, extinguish candles every time you leave the room or go to bed. Designate one person to ensure all the candles are blown out at the end of the night.
Keep all decorations near the fireplace safely secured. Stocking can be festive but not when they catch on fire. Preferably, the hearth should be cleared of objects when the fire is lit.
The kitchen is another place where fires commonly start during the holidays. With all the burners on the stove going, you must take care to keep all flammable items away from the stove top, including oven mitts, plastic and paper packaging, wooden utensils and towels.
Although this is true all times during the year, you should change the batteries in the smoke detectors in the house and test them every month. There should be one on each level of the house, outside the sleeping area, and inside each bedroom. If you have any questions about fire safety this holiday season, call your local fire department’s non-emergency number or contact Tri County Hearth and Patio Center.