More fires and fire-related deaths occur over the winter holidays than any other time of the year. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), most fires occur between December 15 to December 31.1 Other statistics show that the number of open-flame fires on Christmas Day are more than double the average, and New Year’s Day runs a close second. Even worse, the number of fatalities during holiday fires is nearly 70% higher than average, and property loss is 34% greater.2 To help reduce these numbers, the fire restoration experts at ServiceMaster Restore have put together some essential fire safety tips and suggestions to help keep your home and family safe this holiday season and throughout the New Year.
WINTER FIRE CAUSES
There are several factors that can increase the risk of fire in your home in winter, and especially during the holiday season. Common risks at this time of year include increased use of fireplaces and candles, and Christmas tree fire hazards. A checklist of general holiday fire safety practices includes:
- Never leave a room empty when a candle is burning. Candle fires are four times more likely to occur during the holiday season, and they account for 57 percent of home decoration fires.1
- Never burn wrapping paper, garbage or other debris in your fireplace.
- Always supervise children around fireplaces, wood burning stoves and any open flames, including 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 2015 report by the NFPA found that the death rate per 100 reported home fires was more than twice as high in homes without working smoke alarms, as compared to homes with working smoke alarms .
- During winter months, the chances of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning also increases, and according to Statistics Canada, it is the leading cause of unintentional poisoning deaths in Canada and North America.
CHRISTMAS TREE FIRE SAFETY:
The danger of having a live Christmas tree is that it becomes flammable as it dries out. Dried-out Christmas trees cause almost 30 percent of home fires in January. The Consumer Product Safety Commission conducted a study showing just how fast a dried-out Christmas tree burns. Combustion occurred in less than one minute after being in contact with a small flame.
- Live trees need to be fresh and stay fresh until removed from your home after the holidays.
- When choosing a tree, tap it on the ground, if it sheds a lot of needles, it's not fresh. Needles should be hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, they do not break.
- 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.
- When buying an artificial tree, only buy one that is certified fire-resistant.
- Never place your Christmas tree near a fireplace, wood burning stove or other open flame.
- Never place real, burning candles on or near your Christmas tree as decorations.
- Only decorate a tree with non-combustible or flame-resistant decorations.
- Keep lit candle displays at least three feet away from the Christmas tree.
- Christmas trees should not block doorways or exit routes, in case of a fire.
- Inspect all strands of Christmas lights before placing them on your tree. Look for fraying wires and other damage. One of every three Christmas tree fires in homes is caused by electrical problems.2
- 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.
- When you are going to be away from home for any length of time, turn off the Christmas tree lights and unplug all non-essential electronics and appliances.
OUTDOOR DECORATION FIRE SAFETY
Holiday decorations on the outside of your home must also follow holiday-specific fire safety precautions. Make sure all extension cords you use outside are certified for outdoor use. The label and packaging for your extension cord will indicate whether it is made for exterior use. 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 windy 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 fire restoration experts at ServiceMaster Restore.