The holiday season is underway and I hope you have a wonderful and safe celebration. This time of year, with Christmas trees, decorations, candles, and cooking, there can be additional risks if safety practices are not followed.
In a five-year period 1200 fires to home structures are caused by burning Christmas trees. These resulted in 65 deaths not counting fire responders, 130 injuries also not counting fire responders, and $83,500,000.00 in damage. About one fifth of those Christmas tree fires were caused by electric powered lights. Altogether lights or other electric decorations account for 750 fires, 40 deaths not counting fire responders, 70 injuries also not counting fire responders, and $42,000,000.00 in damage. So including trees and lights, there were more than 1800 fires.
Candles were involved in 11% of Christmas tree fires, and 20% of Christmas tree fires were caused by a heat source being too close to the tree.
During a three-year period more than 16,000 people were treated for falls involving holiday decorations. Ouch!
Most kitchen fires are caused by unattended cooking, but the kitchen is also a place where people, especially children can be injured directly from the cooking.
Here are some reminders to help keep the celebration from becoming a tragedy:
If you use an artificial tree make sure it is fire retardant.
If you use a real tree, make sure green needles don’t fall off when you touch a branch, cut 1-2inches of the trunk and put in a stand with water. Water daily.
Keep any heat source at least 3 feet way from the tree. This includes space heaters, fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents, hot lights.
Make sure the tree does not block an exit.
Make sure any light strands are in good shape (no frayed cord or loose light sockets) and make sure the lights are intended for use on the tree if that is what you are using them for. If you are using them to decorate outside, make sure they are certified for outdoor use. Turn lights off before bed or if you are going to be gone.
Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
After Christmas get rid of any natural tree. A dead dry tree is a major fire hazard.
Keep candles 18 inches away from anything that could catch fire. Make sure the candle is in a sturdy holder on an uncluttered surface. Don’t leave candles unattended and put them out before going to sleep.
It is best to not have candles in a bedroom, and never leave a child alone with a burning candle. Consider using flameless candles that look like they have a flame.
Most kitchen fires are associated with cooking on the stove top. Stay with the cooking if you are frying, or grilling on the stove top. If you leave the stove top, turn it off, even if for a short time. If you are boiling or simmering, use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
Keep things away from the stove top, including oven mitts. Remember that electric stove tops do not cool off immediately.
It is best to give the kids something to keep their attention out of the kitchen, but always keep a kid-free zone around the stove of at least 3 feet.
Have a lid handy to slide over any small grease fire in a pan. Do not open the lid until the pan is completely cool. If there is an oven fire, keep the oven door closed. If a fire gets out of hand, LEAVE and close the door. Make sure everyone else gets out, too. You should have an escape plan already worked out and practiced with your kids for any kind of fire. (You can make this into a game and there are resources on the internet to help you plan and practice fire escape.)
These are all simple precautions. Observe good safety and make it a habit. That’s the best way to ensure a happy holiday season. May this holiday season find you and your family happy healthy and safe and have a prosperous new year.