Christmas lights flickering, candles glowing, the smell of freshly baked cookies, and carolers singing. Some people may even be roasting chestnuts on an open fire. These are hallmarks of the holiday season. Yet, with all the excitement, people often forget about putting safety first.
Between 2009 – 2014, U.S. fire departments responded to a yearly average of 210 home fires that started with Christmas trees, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). They responded to an estimated average of 860 home fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees. In 2014, the three leading days for home fires caused by cooking were Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and Christmas Eve; the top three days for home candle fires were Christmas, New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve.
To help keep you and your family safe this holiday season, here is a wealth of safety tips from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
- Be careful with holiday decorations. Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.
- Never leave a lit Christmas tree unattended.
- Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree.
- Do not burn Christmas tree branches in a home fireplace.
- Place tree away from a heat source – fireplaces, radiator, and heat vents.
If using an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree is more resistant to burning.
If using a live tree:
- Check for freshness. Make sure the needles are hard to pull from the branches, the trunk is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree does not lose many needles.
- After bringing the tree home, cut off the bottom two inches of the trunk. This creates a fresh, raw cut for the tree to soak up water.
- Keep the stand filled with water; check water level daily.
- After the holiday season or whenever your tree dries out, promptly dispose of it and other dry greenery. Proper disposal includes recycling or pick-up by a disposal service.
- Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both. Check labels before using.
- Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
- Inspect lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up.
- Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections.
- Do not overload electrical outlets.
- Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of light strands to connect. If uncertain, do not link more than three light strands.
- Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet.
- Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.
- Cords should never be pinched by furniture or placed under rugs.
- Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
- Do not leave holiday lights on unattended.
- For optimum safety as well as energy efficiency, use smaller, cool-burning LED lights.
- Keep lit candles at least 12 inches away from decorations and other things that can burn.
- Never burn candles on or near the tree and never use flammable decorations.
- Always use a sturdy non-combustible (metal, glass, or ceramic) candleholder.
- Avoid candles with items embedded in them such as twigs, flowers, or leaves.
- Place candles out of reach of children and pets.
- Never leave a burning candle unattended.
- Use a flashlight — not a candle — for emergency lighting.
- Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stovetop.
- Avoid a crowded kitchen to minimize the risk of spills and burns.
- Be prepared to deal with potential cooking fires. Remember to never put water on a grease fire.
- If using a woodstove or fireplace, keep it screened at all times. Keep decorative materials at least three feet away.
- Never burn wrapping paper in the fireplace or wood stove. Wrapping paper burns at higher temperatures than wood and can cause a chimney fire.
General Fire Safety
- Have working smoke alarms on every level of your home (including the basement). Test each one to make sure they are working properly.
- Make a home fire escape plan and practice it with your family and any overnight guests.
- Keep matches and lighters up high in a locked cabinet.
- Ask smokers to smoke outside.
- Provide large, deep ashtrays for smokers. Wet cigarette butts with water before discarding.
- Keep combustibles at least three feet from heat sources.
Lawsuit Financial encourages everyone to follow these tips for a safe and happy holiday season filled with happy memories.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.