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Winter Holiday Fire Safety
Updated On: Dec 23, 2008


  The winter holidays are a time for celebration, and that means more cooking, home decorating, entertaining, and an increased risk of fire due to heating equipment.

Facts & figures

  • During the four-year period of 2003-2006, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 240 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of 16 deaths, 25 injuries, and $13.1 million in direct property damage annually.
  • During 2005, an estimated 15,600 home structure fires started by candles were reported to local fire departments. These fires resulted in an estimated 150 civilian deaths, 1,270 civilian injuries and an estimated direct property loss of $539 million. Homes include dwellings, duplexes, manufactured housing and apartments.
  • Three in 10 reported home fires start in the kitchen -- more than any other place in the home.
  • Nearly half (44%) of all home heating fires occurred in December, January and February in 2002-2005.

 
Winter holidays are a time for families and friends to get together. But that also means a greater risk for fire. Following a few simple tips will ensure a happy and fire-safe holiday season.

Safety tips

Holiday decorating

  • Use lights that have the label of an independent
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken
  • Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do
  • Keep decorations away from windows and doors.
Holiday entertaining
  • Test your smoke alarms and tell guests about your home fire escape plan.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high in a locked cabinet.
  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stovetop.
  • Ask smokers to smoke outside. Remind smokers to
  • Provide large, deep ashtrays for smokers. Wet cigarette butts with water before discarding.

Christmas tree fires
 
 

Christmas tree

Carefully decorating Christmas trees can help make your holidays safer. Note:  The statistics on this page are based on fires that started with Christmas trees and do not include fires starting with other products. A small fire that spreads to a Christmas tree can very quickly become large.

Facts & figures

  • During the four-year period of 2003-2006, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 240 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of 16 deaths, 25 injuries, and $13.1 million in direct property damage annually.
  • Fortunately, these fires are not common, but when they do occur, they are likely to be serious. On average, one of every 15 reported fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in death. 
  • Fifty-nine percent of the home Christmas tree fires occurred in December; 24% occurred in January.

Christmas tree safety tips  
 
Each year, fire departments respond to an average of 210 structure fires caused by Christmas trees. Carefully decorating Christmas trees can help make your holidays safer.

Safety tips

Picking the tree
  • If you have an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled, certified, or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.
  • Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.

Placing the tree

  • Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 1–2” from the base of the trunk.
  • Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
  • Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
  • Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.

Lighting the tree

  • Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
  • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

After Christmas

  • Get rid of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home. Check with your local community to find a recycling program. Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.
This information is from NFPA.org

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