Holiday Safety Series:  Protect Yourself and Your Property from Fire

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The holidays are a joyous, happy, exciting time for many people with bright, twinkling lights, decorated trees and new, innovative toys on Christmas morning. Unfortunately, during the holidays, many people forgo common safety practices that can cause injury or property damage, This series will provide tips on fire, health, financial safety as well as how to keep yourself from being a crime victim during the holidays. 

According to the National Fire Protection Association, fire departments around the country respond to more than 1,000 home structure fires each year during the Christmas season. An average of 200 per year are caused by Christmas trees while more than 800 were began with other decorations. Too often, when decorating homes or businesses for the holidays, people forget to practice common fire safety precautions.

Holiday lights are often found as the cause of fires around the Christmas season. Fires caused by decorations led to an average $13.4 million in property damage as well as death and injury. According to Ryan Knowles, President of Carlisle Fire Company, there are things you can do to avoid fires caused by holiday lights and decorations.

“We remind everyone to use approved lighting for trees and structure decorations,” Mr. Knowles said. “Be sure to use weather approved lighting for outside use and inspect every cord before you use them. This includes the light strings and the extension cords you may need to use as part of your decorating. Check the rating for each string of lights you use as well.” Often, strings of lights limit the number of strings you can connect, usually between three and five, to keep from overloading the circuits.

Christmas trees are another hazard during the Christmas season. Natural Christmas trees that are not properly cared for are the most common causes of house fires related to trees. Natural trees must be watered often to keep them fresh and alive. If you choose a live tree that is already cut, drill holes in the trunk as soon as you bring it home and place it in a tub of water. You do not need to drill the holes in a fresh-cut tree, but it must be placed in water immediately. Evergreens produce sap and if the tree is allowed to dry, sap seals the trunk so that the tree cannot absorb water any longer. Check the water level in live trees each day to be sure the tree is not in danger of drying. Mr. Knowles says that hot light strands on a dying or dry tree create a significant fire hazard.

“Unattended candles are another problem during the holiday season,” Mr. Knowles said. “Be sure to place them in areas that are open to avoid catching surrounding items on fire. Keep a wick damper or lid for a jar candle close by so you can quickly extinguish the flame should it flare.”

Chimney fires are also common during the holiday season. Mr. Knowles says to keep your chimney clean and only burn proper materials in the fireplace.

“Wrapping paper should never be thrown in a fireplace,” Mr. Knowles said. “Certain types of paper can cause sizable flare ups and can also emit floating ash that can catch larger items around a fireplace to ignite. This can include carpet or furniture, both of which can lead to bigger fires.”

Turkey fryers are popular gift items at Christmas. Mr. Knowles says that anyone who receives a turkey fryer during the holidays should follow the directions that are included. The fryer should be placed a safe distance from all structures and the turkey must be thawed prior to being placed in the hot oil.

These simple tips can help you and your family  have a safe, fire-free holiday.