Fire Safety During the Holiday Season

Fire hazards are all around us and in our homes – But never so much as during the holidays. Keep yourselves and your possessions safe by knowing how house fires commonly start and how to prevent them. Of the top 8 causes for house fires, the first 2 are what the holidays are all about – cooking and decorations. Read more and learn about common fire hazards and what you can do to reduce the risk of a fire in your home.

1. Cooking

Cooking is such a part of our daily routine that it can often be overlooked as a “fire hazard”. However, cooking is the number one source of house fires, often a result of leaving pots or pans unattended for “just a minute” (while you check the football score and such). The NFPA says that 40% of all house fires, or an average of 156,600 per year, start with cooking in the kitchen, resulting in $853 million in property damage. Because cooking is such a part of our daily routine, it is easy to become careless. Below are some suggestions for cooking safely this holiday season…

  • Be alert and don’t leave food unattended.
  • Never throw water onto a grease fire, instead smother it with a lid on a pan.
  • If an oven fire occurs, turn off the oven and keep the door closed until the fire is extinguished.
  • Keep clothing, pot holders, paper towels, and other flammable items away from the stove top.
  • Make sure your smoke detectors are always in working order and keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen for emergencies. PS… Make sure you know how to use it!
  • If you must deep fry your turkey – follow the safety tips in this video

2. Oh Christmas Tree…

The NFPA says an average of 230 fires each year are caused by Christmas trees, and they are more likely to be serious fires because of the contributing factors: a dry tree, electrical lights, and fuel supply – all the brightly wrapped gifts under the tree. Implement these suggestions to keep your tree and home safe…

  • Give natural trees plenty of water to keep them from drying out and discard dry brittle trees immediately (as soon as they start to lose their needles).
  • Always turn off tree lights before going to sleep or leaving the house.
  • Check lights for breaks in the chord and other electrical issues before putting them on the tree, this is the number one cause of Christmas tree fires (not a bad idea to just get new lights every couple of years or so).
  • Be sure your trees are not placed near a heat source such as heat vents or fireplaces.
  • Never burn candles under hanging branches or too near any tree.
  • Don’t pack your gifts so full under the tree that they are touching the lights on the tree – Maybe save a few surprises for Christmas morning.

3. Candles

Burning candles add ambiance and pleasant aroma to a home and are used more frequently during the holiday season. Over 1/3 of all candle sales occur during the holidays. According to the NFPA, an average of 29 candle fires occur EVERY day all year long. More than half of all candle fires start because they were placed too close to flammable items. Follow these simple steps to avoid fires from candles…

  • Keep candles at least 2 feet away from curtains and other flammable items.
  • Don’t leave candles burning in an unoccupied room.
  • To prevent candles from tipping over make sure they fit securely in candle holders.
  • Blow out burning candles before falling asleep.

4. Children playing with fire

The NFPA says that children start an average of 7,100 home fires per year. Children under the age of 6 tend to start fires inside using matches or a lighter, while older children are more likely to start fires outside. There are a couple of things you can do to avoid these kind of fires…

  • Make sure that all matches, lighters, and other ignition sources are kept safely out of reach of children.
  • Teach your children about fire safety at an early age.

5. Lightning

NFPA reports an average of 22,000 fires per year are caused by lightning. Unlike other types of house fires, fires caused by lightning occur mostly in summer months, and early in the evening. Lightning usually strikes the highest point on a structure and poses the greatest risk outdoors. There is not much you can do about Mother Nature, but here are some suggestions to keep you and your family safe…

  • You should not use corded phones, computers or other electrical equipment during a storm.
  • Unplug major electronics to minimize damage from lightning.

6. Dryers and washer machines

Fires from clothes dryers account for 16,800 home fires each year, causing more than $236 million in property damage. The most frequent causes of dryer fires is lint/dust (29%) and clothing (28%). In washers, they are wire or cable insulation (26%), the appliance housing (21%) or the drive belt (15%). A few simple steps can help prevent laundry room fires from occurring in your home…

  • Clean lint screen frequently and never run the dryer without it.
  • If you have a gas or propane dryer, check frequently for leaks in the line.
  • Clean your vent pipe and area where screen is housed on a regular basis.
  • Keep combustible materials away from your dryer area.

7. Electrical and Lighting

According to the NFPA, an average of 47,700 home structure fires resulted from some sort of electrical malfunction. This checklist can make sure your home is not a statistic…

  • Make sure you use the proper cord for the right purpose – indoor cords for inside, and outside heavy duty cords for outdoor use.
  • Don’t overload outlets or electrical cords.
  • Never leave Christmas lights or halogen lights of any sort on overnight or when away from home.
  • Have an electrician perform an annual check-up.

8. Smoking

While the number of fires caused by smoking is trending downward, the NFPA found that there were still an average of 17,600 smoking-related fires per year. The number of fires caused by smoking dropped by 73% in recent years, due largely to the decline in the number of smokers. If you are a smoker consider these safety tips…

  • Consider smoking outside.
  • Use wide sturdy ashtrays to catch butts and ashes.
  • Take care that lit cigarettes have not fallen into seat cushions or under furniture.
  • Don’t smoke in bed, or when you’re tired or laying down.
  • Never smoke near medical oxygen.

A large number of house fires could have been prevented. Knowing the most common causes is the first step to protecting your home. Take a moment to check your own home to identify any of these risks and fix the problem before disaster strikes.

OneRestore is a Full-Service Restoration Company in Gainesville, Ocala, The Villages, Crystal River and surrounding areas in Central Florida. We help families and businesses recover from unexpected disasters, including fire. We can help with all aspects of Fire Restoration, including Re-Construction and Remodeling. We hope this article helps you and your family have a happy, safe and fire-free holiday season.

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