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Christmas Safety

Christmas Fires Christmas Tree and Toys

  • From December 24th through the 26th, fire deaths, injuries, and dollar loss increase an average of 50%, 61%, and 43%, respectively.

  • Between 2007-2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 230 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year according to the National Fire Protection Association. These fires cause approximately 6 deaths, 22 injuries, and $18.3 million in property damage yearly.

  • Candles start 7% of home Christmas tree structure fires.

  • Holiday or decorative lights with line voltage start an average of 150 home structure fires each year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. These fires cause approximately 9 deaths, 16 injuries, and $8.4 million in property damage yearly.

  • A heat source too close to the tree causes one quarter of the fires.

  • Electrical problems are factors in one-third (32%) of home Christmas tree structure fires.

  • Roughly two out of five home fires start in the kitchen.

  • Unattended cooking is a factor in 34% of reported home cooking fires.

Christmas Tree Tips

The Holiday season is typically regarded as extending from late November to early January and includes Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year's Day. In addition to the holidays themselves, many people choose to celebrate the season by decorating their homes with electric lights, candles, banners, and wreaths. The Christmas tree is among the most popular of these decorations. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, nearly one-third of American households had a live or cut Christmas tree inside the home. Each year, newspapers are filled with tragic stories of families killed by fires that are ignited by the family Christmas tree. As the season progresses and trees become drier, the incidence of Christmas tree fires worsens. In residential structure fires where the ignition is a Christmas tree or other holiday decoration, the fire is typically more severe in every measurable way. In reaction to winter's cold weather, most people turn up the heat in their homes which dries Christmas trees even more. Coupled with faulty wiring or lit candles, a Christmas tree provides sufficient fuel to ignite a serious fire.

For many people, decorating the Christmas tree is a favorite part of the holiday. The National Safety Council offers some safety tips to make sure a mishap doesn't spoil your holiday season. Christmas Tree

  • Try to select a fresh tree by looking for one that is green. The needles of pines and spruces should bend and not break and should be hard to pull off the branches. On fir species, a needle pulled from a fresh tree will snap when bent, much like a fresh carrot. Also, look for a trunk sticky with sap.

  • Cut off about one to two inches of the trunk and put the tree in a sturdy, water-holding stand. Keep the stand filled with water daily so the tree does not dry out.

  • Stand your tree at least three feet away from fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents, lights, and other heat sources. Make sure the tree does not block an exit.

  • If you use an artificial tree, choose one that is tested and labeled as fire retardant. Artificial trees with built-in electrical systems should have the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label.

  • Get rid of the tree after Christmas or when it is dry. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home. Check with your local community to find a recycling program.

Tree Lights

  • Only use indoor lights indoors (and outdoor lights only outdoors). Look for the UL label. Check lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Replace or repair any damaged light sets.

  • Also, use no more than three strands of mini string light sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs on any one extension cord. Extension cords should be placed against the wall to avoid tripping hazards, but do not run cords under rugs.

  • Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.

  • Turn off all lights on trees and decorations when you go to bed or leave the house.

  • Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.

Tree Ornaments/DecorationsChristmas Ornaments

  • Always use the proper step stool or ladder to reach high places.

  • Read labels before you use materials that come in jars, cans, and spray cans.

  • Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.

  • Keep decorations away from windows and doors.

  • Never place lighted candles on a tree or near any flammable materials.

  • Avoid placing breakable tree ornaments or ones with small, detachable parts on lower branches where small children or pets can reach them.

  • Do not hang popcorn chains and candy canes on the tree when small children are present. They may think that other tree ornaments are also edible.

  • Wear gloves while decorating with spun glass "angel hair." It can irritate your eyes and skin. A common substitute is non-flammable cotton. Both angel hair and cotton snow are flame retardant when used alone. However, if artificial snow is sprayed onto them, the dried combination will burn rapidly. When spraying artificial snow on windows or other surfaces, be sure to follow directions carefully. These sprays can irritate your lungs if you inhale them.

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Fireplaces

  • You should not try to burn evergreens or wreaths in the fireplace or in a wood stove to dispose of them. They are likely to flare out of control and send flames and smoke into the room. Also, do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace because it often contains metallic materials which can be toxic if burned.

Candles

  • Never use lighted candles near trees, curtains/drapes, or with any potentially flammable item.

  • Keep children and pets away from lit candles. Never leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle.

  • Keep matches and lighters up high and out of children's reach, in a locked cabinet. Christmas Candles

  • Blow out lit candles when you leave the room or go to bed. 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.

  • Use candle holders that are sturdy, and won't tip over easily.

  • Put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface.

  • Light candles carefully. Keep your hair 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.

  • Never use a candle if oxygen is used in the home.

  • Have flashlights and battery-powered lighting ready to use during a power outage. Never use candles.

  • Think about using flameless candles in your home. They look and smell like real candles.

Toys And Gifts

  • Be especially careful when you choose toys for infants or small children. Be sure anything you give them is too big to get caught in the throat, nose, or ears. Avoid toys with small parts that can be pulled or broken off. If you are giving toys to several children in one family, consider their age differences and the chances that younger children will want to play with older kids' toys.

Plants

  • Small children may think that holiday plants look good enough to eat, but many plants can cause severe stomach problems. Plants to watch out for include: mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry, and amaryllis. Keep all of these plants out of children's reach.

Food And Cooking

  • The holidays often mean preparing large meals for family and friends. Wash hands, utensils, sink, and anything else that has come in contact with raw poultry. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in covered shallow containers (less than two inches deep) within two hours after cooking. Date the leftovers for future use.

  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stove top.

Guests

  • Test your smoke alarms and tell guests about your home fire escape plan.

  • Ask smokers to smoke outside. Remind smokers to keep their smoke materials with them so young children do not touch them.

  • Provide large, deep ashtrays for smokers. Wet cigarette butts with water before discarding.

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