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.
When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.
Holiday Safety Tips
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or an occasion you made up yourself, we want to make sure you stay safe this holiday season. So, from all of us at the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, please read and follow our Holiday Safety Tips, which cover best practices for holiday decorations, food and toys. Please accept our warmest wishes for a safe and wonderful celebration:
- Don’t use lighted candles near trees, boughs, curtains/drapes, or with anything that is potentially flammable.
- Wear gloves while decorating with “angel hair.” It can irritate your eyes and skin. Does anyone actually still decorate with this stuff? Why not just use fiberglass while you’re at it? Safety, people!
- When spraying artificial snow, be sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Sprays like these can irritate your lungs. I prefer real snow.
- Small children and puppies may think that holiday plants look good enough to eat. Unfortunately, many holiday plant varieties (such as mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry and amaryllis) are poisonous and/or can cause severe stomach problems if ingested. So keep them well out of the reach of kids and pets.
- Cut off about two inches off the trunk of your tree and place the base in a sturdy, water-filled stand. Monitor water level so the tree does not dry out and become combustible. This can be problematic if you’ve got a dog who likes to drink tree water.
- Cut a few inches off the trunk of your tree to expose fresh wood. This allows for better water absorption and will keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
- Stand your tree away from fireplaces, radiators and heat sources. Also, for safety, don’t place the tree where it blocks foot and paw traffic or doorways.
- Avoid placing breakable tree ornaments on low-hanging branches where small children or pets can reach them.
- If you opt for an artificial tree, choose one that has been tested and labeled as fire resistant. Artificial trees with built-in electrical systems should be approved by the Underwriters Laboratory (UL). I prefer real trees.
- Use indoor lights inside and outdoor lights outside. Check lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, and loose connections. Replace or repair damaged light sets.
- Use no more than three light sets on any one extension cord. (Have you seen Christmas Vacation?) Extension cords should be placed against the wall to prevent tripping hazards. Never run cords under rugs, around furniture legs or across doorways.
- Turn off lights on trees and decorations when you go to bed or leave the house.
- Unplug extension cords when they are not in use.
- If using a natural tree, keep it well watered so dry branches won’t ignite when they touch warm bulbs.
- If you decide to display outdoor lights, fasten them firmly to a secure support with insulated staples or hooks. Snoopy really had a talent for exterior illumination.
- Don’t nail or tack wiring when hanging lights.
- Keep plugs off the ground, far from puddles and snow.
- When preparing a holiday meal for friends and family wash your hands, utensils, the sink and countertop, and anything else that comes in contact with raw poultry.
- Don’t defrost food at room temperature. Thaw it in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave.
- Keep knives sharp. Believe it or not, most knife injuries occur due to dull blades instead of sharp ones.
- Use a clean food thermometer to make sure internal temperature of food is safe.
- Avoid cleaning kitchen surfaces with wet dishcloths or sponges. These harbor bacteria and promote bacteria growth. For safety, use clean paper towels instead.
- When reheating leftovers, bring the temperature up to at least 165°F to eliminate the risk of bacterial growth.
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in covered shallow containers within two hours after cooking. Or, better yet, give them to the dog!
- Make sure toys suit the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the intended child and/or puppy.
- Read instructions carefully before allowing your child or dog to play with something he or she has received as a gift.
- To prevent burns and electrical shock, don’t give young children toys that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. On average, battery-operated toys are safer.
- Since young kids can choke on small parts, follow government recommendations that say toys for children under the age of three cannot contain parts that are less than 1 1/4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches long.
- Keep children and puppies from swallowing button batteries and magnets. These are found in musical greeting cards, remote controls, hearing aids and other small electronics as well as toys. If your child swallows a battery of any kind, immediately call your health care provider.
- Remove strings and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children or pets.
- Children can choke or suffocate on broken balloons. So do not allow children under age eight to play with them.
- Pull-toys with strings that are more than 12 inches in length are choking hazards for babies. Keep kids away from strings and cords.
- Store toys in designated locations, such as on a shelf or in a toy chest.
For more about holiday safety, check out the free information provided by the National Safety Council, the National Fire Protection Association and our previous posts. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.