Each year fires occurring during the holiday season claim the lives of over 400 people, injure 1,650 more, and cause over $990 million in damage. According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), there are simple life-saving steps you can take to ensure a safe and happy holiday. By following some of the outlined precautionary tips, individuals can greatly reduce their chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty.
Special fire safety precautions need to be taken when keeping a live tree in the house. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases.
Selecting a Tree for the Holiday
Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needle should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.
Caring for Your Tree
Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
Disposing of Your Tree
Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or woodburning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.
Maintain Your Holiday Lights
Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets
Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch.
Do Not Leave Holiday Lights on Unattended
Use Only Nonflammable Decorations
All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.
Never Put Wrapping Paper in a Fireplace
It can throw off dangerous sparks and produce a chemical buildup in the home that could cause an explosion.
Artificial Christmas Trees
If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
Avoid Using Lit Candles
If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never leave the house with candles burning.
Never Put Lit Candles on a Tree
Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame – candles, lighters or matches.
Finally, as in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Know when and how to call for help. And remember to practice your home escape plan.
- The best way to enjoy fireworks is to visit public fireworks displays put on by professionals who know how to safely handle fireworks.
- If you plan to use fireworks, make sure they are legal in your area.
- Never light fireworks indoors or near dry grass.
- Always have a bucket of water and/or a fire extinguisher nearby. Know how to operate the fire extinguisher properly.
- Do not wear loose clothing while using fireworks.
- Stand several feet away from lit fireworks. If a devise does not go off, do not stand over it to investigate it. Put it out with water and dispose of it.
- Always read the directions and warning labels on fireworks. If a devise is not marked with the contents, direction and a warning label, do not light it.
- Supervise children around fireworks at all times.
- Before using a grill, check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line. Make sure the venturi tubes – where the air and gas mix – are not blocked.
- Do not overfill the propane tank.
- Do not wear loose clothing while cooking at a barbecue.
- Be careful when using lighter fluid. Do not add fluid to an already lit fire because the flame can flashback up into the container and explode.
- Keep all matches and lighters away from children. Teach your children to report any loose matches or lighters to an adult immediately. Supervise children around outdoor grills.
- Dispose of hot coals properly – douse them with plenty of water, and stir them to ensure that the fire is out. Never place them in plastic, paper or wooden containers.
- Never grill/barbecue in enclosed areas – carbon monoxide could be produced.
- Make sure everyone knows to Stop, Drop and Roll in case a piece of clothing does catch fire. Call 911 or your local emergency number if a burn warrants serious medical attention.
- Build campfires where they will not spread, away from dry grass and leaves.
- Keep campfires small, and don’t let them get out of hand.
- Keep plenty of water and a shovel around to douse the fire when you’re done. Stir it and douse it again with water.
- Never leave campfires unattended.
- Download “A Season for Sharing in Fire Safety ” (PDF)
- Download “Topical Fire Report Series: Christmas/Christmas Tree Fires” (PDF)
- Download “Topical Fire Report Series: December and Holiday Fires” (PDF)
- Download “Topical Fire Report Series: New Year’s Holiday Fires ” (PDF)
- Download “Topical Fire Report Series: Residential Structure Fires During the Winter Holiday Season” (PDF)
- Download “Topical Fire Report Series: The Dangers of Fireworks, Second Edition” (PDF)
Source: U.S. Fire Administration (FEMA)