For most, the holiday season is a time for family festivities and good cheer. The holiday season can also be a time for increased risk of home fires. According to the McKinney Fire Department, holiday activities in many households serve as some of the leading causes of home fires. Cooking, Christmas trees, candles and holiday decorations significantly contribute to the seasonal causes of home fires. Add the hectic nature of the holidays, and the chance for home fires grows even further. With a little added awareness and some minor adjustments, the season can be festive and safe.
“As everyone gets busier during the holidays, we often become rushed, distracted or tired,” says Stacie Durham, Public Information Officer for the McKinney Fire Department. “That’s when home fires are more likely to occur. By taking some preventative steps and following simple safety tips, most home fires can be prevented.”
Unattended cooking is the leading cause of U.S. home fires and home fire injuries, so stay in the kitchen while you’re frying, grilling or broiling food. Most cooking fires involve the stovetop, so keep anything that can catch fire away from it, and turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even if it’s for a short period of time. Check cooking food regularly and use a timer. Create a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food and drinks are prepared or carried.
Candles are widely used throughout the holidays, and December is the peak month for home candle fires. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistics show that more than half of all candle fires start because the candles had been too close to things that could catch fire. The McKinney Fire Department encourages residents to consider using flameless candles, which look and smell like real candles. When using traditional candles, keep them at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and never leave the room where a candle is burning. Avoid using candles in the bedroom where two of five U.S. candle fires begin. Lastly, never leave a child or pet alone in a room with a burning candle.
Fire departments across the country annually respond to an average of 250 structure fires caused by Christmas trees. Nearly half of them are caused by electrical problems, and one in four resulted from a heat source that’s too close to the tree. McKinney Fire Department offers the following advice for picking, placing and lighting the tree:
· If you have an artificial tree, be sure it’s labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.
· If you choose a fresh tree, make sure the green needles don’t fall off when touched.
· Before placing it in the stand, cut 1-2” from the base of the trunk. Add water to the tree stand daily.
· Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit and is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, lights, candles and heat vents.
· Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory, and make sure you know whether they are designed for indoor or outdoor use.
· Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords, or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini-string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.
· Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
· Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
· Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards.
After Christmas, get rid of the tree. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside the home. The City of McKinney encourages residents to recycle their trees instead of throwing them away this year and offers free curbside pick-up or two drop-off locations.
By following these fire prevention tips, you can greatly reduce the risk of fire in your home, and enjoy a safe holiday season. For additional information on holiday safety, cooking safety and a variety of other fire and life safety topics, visit www.mckinneyfire.org or call 972-547-2893.