Did you know? The holiday season is fire season. In fact, more fires happen during the holidays than during any other time of the year. Fortunately, with little awareness and a few safety precautions, you can greatly reduce the risk of fire in your home.
Hazard: Your turkey
According to FEMA, home cooking fires happen most often on Thanksgiving. “Cooking is the number one cause of home fires and injuries in the U.S.; unattended cooking is by far the leading cause of cooking fires,” said the NFPA.
What to do? FEMA recommends standing by your pan and turning off burners before you leave the kitchen. Keep anything flammable such as paper towels, oven mitts, or food packaging clear of the stovetop area. If you’re planning to deep fry a turkey, you must do it outdoors (never in a garage or on a wooden deck); at least 10 feet away from the home; and on a level surface.
Hazard: Your Christmas tree
In 2013, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) said that Christmas trees started 230 house fires per year over a four-year period. This type of fire isn't common, but when it happens, it's bad.
For example, the fatality rate for Christmas tree fires was one death per 40 fires. That's astonishingly high compared to other home structure fires, which averaged one death per 142 reported fires.
What to do? Don't let your tree go dry this Christmas. "Researchers found that dry natural trees burned easily but trees that had been kept moist are unlikely to catch fire unintentionally," said the NFPA. Two tips here:
- Water your tree one to two times a day. As the tree ages it will drink less – but continue to check it once a day at least, and never let the water reservoir go empty. When the basin goes dry, the stump can seal off, making it harder for the tree to drink. As a result, it dries out sooner.
- Move your tree outdoors as soon as it dries out. If you can easily snap the needles in your fingers, your tree is effectively kindling. Don't leave it in the house.
Hazard: Your twinkle lights
In the same four-year period, the NFPA found that twinkle lights caused about 150 house fires per year. Some of these (15 percent) overlapped with Christmas tree fires, but most (64 percent) were the result of an electrical malfunction.
What to do?
- Don't overload your electrical system. Most house circuits are designed to carry a max of 15 to 20 amps and you should be using no more than 80 percent of your max, according to FamilyHandyman.com. If you go higher, your circuit breaker is supposed to trip or blow a fuse – but if it doesn't, you run the risk of a fire. If ever you touch an outlet cover, light switch or cord and it feels warm, you may be overloading the circuit. Move some of those plugs to an outlet on a different circuit.
- Don’t use worn or frayed cords and follow manufacturer instructions for indoor or outdoor use.
- Unplug string lights before you go to bed, and beware leaving extension cords plugged in continuously.
Hazard: Your fireplace and furnace.
“December, January and February are the leading months for home heating fires,” the NFPA said. “Overall, heating equipment is the second leading cause of U.S. home fires and home fire deaths."
What to do? Clean the fireplace once a year, maintain your HVAC and change that furnace filter.
Hazard: Your mood lighting.
"More than half of home candle fires occur when candles are placed too close to things that can burn," said the NFPA.
What to do? Keep candles at least 12 inches away from decorations and other combustible materials, and never leave them burning unattended. Keep candles out of reach from children and pets. Teach your children to be very cautious around fire and always blow out candles before you go to bed. Consider using flameless candles for all the ambience without all the risk.
Please keep these holiday safety tips in mind as you prepare for Thanksgiving and Christmas – and have a wonderful holiday season!