The Holidays: the first thing you think of might not be fire awareness! Instead, you might think of decorating Christmas trees and driving around to look at Christmas lights on homes. Lights, candles, and toasty warm fires all play a huge role in the festivities this time of year – holiday parties wouldn’t go so well in complete darkness! All those wonderful holiday displays are something to not just admire, but also be aware of to reduce your chance of a house fires.
There are around 200 house fires a year from Christmas-related decorations. Not a huge amount, right? No. However, “On average, one of every 32 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 143 total reported home fires.” –NFPA So while there are not a lot of house fires from Christmas Trees, they are on average much deadlier. So what can you do to improve your fire awareness?
If you’re lucky enough to live in a newer home, or a larger building, you may have fire sprinklers. If you’re considering building a new home in the future, I highly suggest fire sprinklers. They can be really expensive to put in an existing building, but when initially installing them in a newer building, they are much more cost effective. (Don’t forget to get your backflow device tested yearly on these!) You’re already on the right path to reduce chance of a major fire if you have sprinklers. If you don’t, you’re not out of luck. Read ahead for more fire awareness tips.
Don’t have Fire Sprinklers installed? Keep these ideas in mind when decorating and entertaining this time of year.
According to the US Fire Administration, the 3 likeliest days that Christmas Trees catch on fire are Christmas, New Years Day, Christmas Eve. Why? Likely because there is a lot going on during those days!
What are the causes of trees catching fire? Generally, heat sources too close to the fire and electrical problems are the most common reasons for trees to catch fire. For the most part, both can be easily avoided. Don’t place your tree near any fire source, whether it be a fireplace, candles, base board heating, etc.
Switch to LED Christmas lights if possible, and don’t overload electical sockets with strings and strings of lights. On average, 3 strings of lights per socket is appropriate, but verify that before plugging away. If you have any frayed cords, do not plug them in. For in-depth info on what to look for to avoid electrical hazards, check out this page from Rocky Mountain Power.
Keep that tree from getting too dry
On average, the drier a tree is, the easier it is to catch fire. When choosing a tree, make sure it looks healthy and doesn’t have browning needles yet. If, for some reason, your tree seems drier than years past, limit the amount of time the Christmas lights are on. One year as a kid we had a very Charlie Brown tree – we turned the lights on two days that year: Christmas eve and Christmas day. By the end of Christmas, it wasn’t much more than a sad pile of dried needles.
Avoid keeping Christmas Tree lights on overnight. There are light timers on the market so you don’t even have to remember to unplug them each night.
If you have limited space, close any heater vents that blow directly on the tree to prevent it drying out.
Once the holidays are over, get rid of that Christmas tree! It will continue to dry out and become more of a hazard the longer you have it.
I love the flicker of a candle paired with snow falling right outside the window. It adds to that magical holiday feeling, especially when I’m sipping a mug of hot cocoa. But those candles can be dangerous if forgotten or unattended – fire awareness is pretty easy when lighting candles since the precautions are fairly simple.
Keep all candles in candle holders to prevent wax from dipping down, or the wick getting too close to something flammable. Before lighting them, trim the wick to about 1/4 inch long each time.
If you’re lighting candles, make sure you know how long they should burn at a time. On average, each inch of diameter of a candle is equal to one hour of burning at a time.
Keep the candle away from moving air that may cause the candle flame to jump – if your wick is trimmed, it’s less likely for this to happen to begin with.
One tip my mom recommended to me recently was count the candles as you light them, and then when you go to snuff them out, count down each one.
When you are extinguishing candles, use a snuffer, or put your finger in front of the flame, then blow across your finger. This reduces the splash of the wax since the air goes around the finger, not directly into the hot wax.
Do you have other common tricks and tips to avoid Holiday fires? We want to hear them! We don’t mean to be gloomy this time of year – We want to make sure you have a safe and happy holiday! A little precaution can go a long way – Happy Holidays!