Safe Decorating and Preventing House Fires this Holiday Season

Following these simple tips will help ensure that your home doesn't become part of a holiday fire statistic

Safe Decorating and Preventing House Fires this Holiday Season
Image: Pexels
November 27, 2017

The holiday season is a time of joy and good cheer, but it is also a time when the number of house fires increases.

Nearly 47,000 fires occur during the winter holidays and many of them can be prevented. Careful planning and responsible decorating can lessen the chances of your home becoming part of the statistic.

Christmas Tree Safety

Christmas tree fires aren't common, but when they happen, they are more likely to be serious. According to the U.S. Fire Association (USFA) one of every 31 reported home structure Christmas tree fires results in a death, compared to an average of one death per 144 total reported home fires.

Real trees, especially in North Carolina, have a dedicated following. To lessen the likelihood of a fire, choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched. When setting up the tree, cut two inches from the base of the trunk. The tree should be placed at least three feet away from any heat source—like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents, or lights.

Most importantly, make sure the tree is watered daily to keep it from getting dry. This video from the National Institute of Standards and Technology shows how quickly a dry tree can burn compared to a tree that is well watered.

If your plants die because you forget to water them, you may want to consider a flame resistant artificial tree.

Regardless if it's real or fake, a Christmas tree isn't complete without some twinkling lights. Those lights, however, can be dangerous if not used properly. According to the USFA, one of every three home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems.

The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) says to use lights that have a label of a recognized testing laboratory, and that are only for indoor use. Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections and don't connect more than three strands of lights. Unplug the tree lights before leaving the house or going to bed.

Candle Safety

Candles are popular all year round, but they are especially commonplace in December during the holidays. It's no surprise then that December is the peak time of year for home fires caused by candles.

Since more than half of all candle fires start when they are too close to things that burn easily, keep candles at least a foot away from anything that can burn. If they are placed in candle holders, make sure they are sturdy and won't tip over easily. Keep pets and curious children away from candles and blow out all candles when you leave the room or go to bed.

Battery operated candles are a safer option to traditional candles, especially if you have children, pets, or are prone to forgetting to blow them out. They may have once looked cheap and cheesy, but they've come a long way, even flickering like real candles!

If you burn a candle for the scent, try a candle warmer instead. Warmers use electricity to heat a scented bar of wax, providing the soft light and pleasant smells of a traditional candle.

Smoke Detectors Save Lives

If there is a fire in your home, the best way to increase your chances of survival is to have working smoke detectors. Make sure you have a smoke alarm installed near your kitchen, on each floor of your home (including the basement), and in every bedroom.

Smoke detectors should be tested monthly and their batteries should be changed annually (at minimum).