But some of this merriment can actually bring danger to your door – in the form of holiday fires. December is the peak time of both candle and Christmas tree fires. And these fires tend to be more dangerous and costly than other types of fires. But a Christmas tree on its own doesn’t start a fire – it takes a heat source or flame to begin. Over half of all tree fires are caused by electrical problems or a too-close heat source. And trees aren’t the only cause for concern. Candles, lights, fireplaces and cooking can also increase fire risk. But with a bit of planning and prevention, these deadly threats can be eliminated from your household this holiday season. Here are our own 12 days of holiday fire prevention – which will keep your family safe this season:
Day 1: Choose a Christmas tree
If you cut down a real tree, choose one that is fresh with green needles that don’t fall off. If you use an artificial tree, ensure it is not flammable and check those lights carefully. (See day 3.)
Day 2: Keep your tree pretty (and safe).
Water your fresh tree every day. When a tree gets dry, it’s easier to catch fire. A well-watered tree looks better and stays safer longer.
Day 3: Check those lights.
When adding lights to the tree or hanging them outside, inspect for fraying, wear, broken bulbs and bare spots. (And make sure outdoor lights are UL-rated for indoor/outdoor use.)
Day 4: Follow instructions.
When connecting holiday light strands, only connect the number of strands that the manufacturer recommends in the instructions. (This is typically three strands.)
It’s also safer to connect lights to an extension cord before plugging a cord into an outlet.
Day 5: Think beyond the flame.
Instead of open flames, try battery-operated flameless candles this year. (They can look, feel and smell just like the real thing.)
Day 6: Minimize risks when you leave the house or are asleep.
Always turn off lights and candles before you leave the house or go to sleep.
Day 7: Check for heat sources.
Make sure your tree is at least three feet from other heat sources. (This includes fireplaces, space heaters and heat vents.) Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that burns.
Day 8: Check that fireplace.
Many families love using their fireplaces around the holidays. To ensure it’s safe, have your chimney inspected and cleaned before using it.
(And never burn wrapping paper in the fireplace.)
Day 9: Be aware of other potential risks.
There are other things around the home during the holidays that can cause and spread fire. Keep these items away from lights, heat sources and flames.
- Boxes or gift bags.
- Wrapping paper.
- Curtains and drapes.
Day 10: Be aware while baking.
Cooking is one of the top causes of holiday fires. And these blazes often happen when food is left unattended. Burning the cookies may be the least of your worries!
Because the holidays are full of distractions, always set a timer or take the potholder with you when you leave the room as a reminder that something is cooking.
Day 11: Check all smoke detectors.
Now’s a great time to make sure your smoke detectors are working properly – and change those batteries, too!
Day 12: Keep a fire extinguisher close.
Ensure you know where to find a working fire extinguisher in your home and how to use it.
BONUS Day 13: Get rid of the tree when it’s dried out and take down lights in a timely manner.
When the holiday has passed (or when the tree has dried out), it’s important to get rid of it. You should also take down lights within a few months. When you leave them up longer, critters begin to chew on them and they can be damaged by weather.
The bottom line
Let’s keep our holiday season merry and bright – and safe. With these tips, your home and family will stay a little safer throughout December.
Check out more tips for fire prevention.