The December holidays are a joyous time to get together with family and friends. But those festive gatherings can present fire risks if you don’t follow precautions when decorating your home.
During the winter holiday season between 2014 and 2018, fire departments in the United States responded to an average of 160 home fires caused by Christmas trees, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Those fires caused an average of two deaths, 14 injuries and $10 million in property damage annually, NFPA reported. In 22% of incidents, a heat source like a candle or equipment, was too close to the Christmas tree.
Before stringing those lights on that Christmas tree, the NFPA recommends you:
- Choose a healthy tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched
- Cut 2 inches from the base of the tree trunk before placing the tree on the stand to help the tree to draw up water
- Always keep the tree well-watered and check the water level in the stand daily
- Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source like fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, heat vents, candles or lights
- Make sure that the tree does not block an exit
- Only use decorative lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory
- Make sure light bulbs, strings and connections are not broken or damaged in any way
- Always turn off tree lights before leaving home or going to bed
- Never use lit candles to decorate the tree
Unfortunately, Christmas trees aren’t the only hazard that may be lurking in and around your home during the holiday season. Holiday decorations, candles and outdoor lights can also start fires if you are not careful.
When decorating, the NFPA suggests you:
- Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant
- Keep lit candles away from decorations
- Be aware of what lights are for indoor use and what lights are for outdoor use
- Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections
- Use clips to hang lights, not nails, so the cords don’t get damaged
When hosting those holiday parties, the NFPA recommends testing your smoke alarms beforehand. When guests arrive, make sure they know how to escape your home in the event of a fire. If your guests smoke, the NFPA recommends providing them large, deep ashtrays then wetting cigarette butts with water before discarding them. You may also want to just ask smokers to go outside.
If children are around, keep them away from lit candles and keep matches and lighters locked up in a safe place.
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