The holidays are almost upon us, and while they will likely look different for many of us this year, holiday safety should always be a priority.
While candles, holiday lights and Christmas trees make our homes look beautiful, they can also pose a serious fire risk. According to the National Fire Protection Association, candles start about 7,900 house fires a year. That’s an average of about 21 candle fires each day — and Christmas is the peak day for candle fires.
What’s more, the NFPA says Christmas trees are responsible for about 160 house fires each year. Meanwhile, decorations (excluding trees) start about 770 home fires per year.
Here are some tips to keep your home free of holiday hazards:
- Pick a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
- Keep your Christmas tree away from room exits.
- Make sure the tree is at least 3 feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
- Water your live Christmas tree daily to keep it from becoming dry. (Check out this video demonstrating just how quickly a dry tree can burn).
- Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
- Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
First and foremost, use only lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory, like Underwriters Laboratories. That string of lights you purchased at the discount store might seem like a good deal, but holiday safety experts warn that many of them are knockoffs made to look like name brands — and some even display fake certifications made to look like they’re UL listed. Check them carefully. Better yet, buy only name brands from trusted retailers — the difference in price isn’t worth risking a tragedy. There have been numerous reports about discount-store electronics that cause sparks, electrical shorts, and even fires.
And here’s something else to keep in mind: Studies have shown that many seasonal products — including those sold at big-box stores — contain high levels of hazardous chemicals and substances. After testing holiday items including garlands, artificial wreaths and greenery, stockings, gift bags, figurines and other decorations, researchers found lead, tin compounds, phthalates (a substance used to increase plastic flexibility), and other hazardous substances. Always be sure to keep decorations out of the hands — and mouths — of children.
You should also:
- Use only decorations that are flame-retardant or not flammable.
- Check holiday lights each year for frayed wires or excessive wear.
- Don’t link more than three strands of holiday lights.
- Be sure to use indoor lights only indoors — they should be clearly marked.
- Never, ever leave a burning candle unattended. Consider using battery-operated flameless candles instead.
- Don’t use candles in the bedroom, or anywhere else people can fall asleep.
- Candles should be placed in a sturdy candle holder.
- Place menorahs and kinaras on a sturdy surface away from the edges of tables or counters, and keep away from flammable materials such as tablecloths, centerpieces, drapes, decorations or plants.
- Lit candles should not be placed in windows where a blind or curtain could catch fire. Keep candles at least a foot away from anything that can burn.
- Blow out all candles when you leave the room or go to bed.
- If a candle must burn continuously, be sure it is enclosed in a glass container and placed in a sink, on a metal tray, or in a deep basin filled with water.
- Never use candles in a home where medical oxygen is used.
Here’s wishing you a safe and happy holiday season from all of us here at LCA!