Over the weekend, an Oklahoma family suffered a house fire which originated in their living room and was reportedly caused by a live Christmas tree. Thankfully, no one was hurt and the bulk of the damage was caused by smoke. However, not everyone is so lucky. The NFPA reports that, across the country, fire departments respond to an average of 230 home fires which start with Christmas trees.
Over the past several weeks, we’ve blogged about a myriad of holiday safety issues. This week, we would like to turn our attention to two of the most flammable holiday decorations—Christmas trees and candles. This post makes me glad I don’t have room for either in my doghouse.
NFPA Facts about Home Holiday Fires
- Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires annually.
- One of every three home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems.
- Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are likely to be serious.
- On average, one of every 40 reported home structure Christmas tree fires results in a death compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home structure fires.
- A heat source too close to the tree causes roughly one in every six of Christmas tree fires. Don’t set up a space heater near your tree!
- Typically, shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches start tree fires. That’s why I would never decorate our doghouse the way Snoopy did on “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown.”
- Well-watered trees are not a problem. A dry and neglected tree can be.
Tree Fire Safety
- Purchase only fresh trees. If needles are brittle or shed easily, choose a different tree. (Maybe it’s me; but live trees seem to be more decorative than brown, dead ones.)
- When setting up the tree at home, place it at least three feet away from any heat source.
- Steer clear of the fireplace, radiators, heating vents and lighting. These can dry out a tree and increase flammability.
- Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times. If you have a dog, this might be a difficult task to stay on top of. Nothing like cold, fresh tree water.
- Don’t leave the tree up for an extended period. Fire safety professionals recommend you do not leave it up for longer than two weeks.
- When you dismantle the tree, discard it immediately. Do not leave it in a garage, on a porch or at the side of the house. A dried-out tree is highly flammable and can cause major damage even when it is just sitting outside, not to mention it’s an eyesore. Check with your local community for a recycling program.
Candle Fire Safety
- Candles cause home fires — and home fire deaths.
- A candle is an open flame, which means that it can easily ignite anything that can burn.
- More than half (56%) of home candle fires occur when something that can catch fire is too close to the candle. So don’t put hay near the Menorah.
- December is the peak time of year for home candle fires. In December, 11% of home candle fires began with decorations compared to 4% the rest of the year.
- Extinguish candles when you leave the room or go to bed. If you aren’t there to enjoy them, what’s the point anyway?
- Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep.
- Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.
- Think about using flameless candles in your home.
- If you decide to burn candles, make sure that you:
- Use candle holders that are sturdy, and won’t tip over easily.
- Put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface.
- Light candles carefully.
- Keep hair, fur and any loose clothing away from the flame.
- Don’t burn a candle all the way down — put it out before it gets too close to the holder or container.\Don’t use a candle if oxygen is used in the home.
- Have flashlights and battery-powered lighting ready to use during a power outage.
Religious Candle Safety
- Whether you are using one candle, or more than one on a candelabra, kinara, or menorah, make sure you take a few moments to learn about using candles safely.
- Candles should be placed in a sturdy candle holder.
- Handheld candles should never be passed from one person to another.
- When lighting candles at a candle lighting service, have the person with the unlit candle dip their candle into the flame of the lit candle.
- Lit candles should not be placed in windows where a blind or curtain could catch fire.
- Candles placed on, or near tables, altars, or shrines, must be watched by an adult.
- 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.
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