It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. As you decorate and prepare for Santa’s big day, keep holiday fire safety top of mind to ensure you and your family have a holly, jolly Christmas free from any fire emergencies. Candles typically start 45% of home fires throughout December, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Holiday decorations are responsible for about 790 home structure fires per year — excluding Christmas trees, which begin an average of 160 home fires per year.
Butch Browning, executive director for the National Association of State Fire Marshals, says there’s an increase in home fire calls from November to February due to seasonal candles, Christmas lights, holiday cooking and cold weather since people stay at home and need more heating. These winter fire safety tips will help you and your loved ones stay safe as you enjoy all the hallmarks of the holiday season.
Decking the halls
- It’s best to not use candles at all, but if you use them, keep them at least 12 inches away from holiday decorations and anything that burns. Blow them out when heading to bed or leaving the room; also consider battery-operated candles.
- Check to make sure you’re using lights appropriately — not all lights are suited for both indoor and outdoor use.
- Do not use string lights or cords that are frayed or have loose bulb connections, and use lights that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory. Butch suggests to upgrade your lighting as needed — “The new LED technology operates on lower power,” he says.
- Hang holiday lights with clips instead of nails to avoid puncturing the cords. Read the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the number of light strands to connect.
- Test all smoke alarms, and establish a home fire escape plan.
- Tuck matches and lighters in high cabinets so little ones can’t find them.
- Get your chimney and vents inspected and cleaned every year by a qualified professional.
- Place decorations and your Christmas tree at least 3 feet from any heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents, lamps and ceiling lights.
- Keep at least one fire extinguisher on every floor of your home, including the basement and attic. Place them near all locations where a fire hazard exists.
Rockin’ around the Christmas tree
- Choose a Christmas tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched. Make sure you cut 2 inches from the base of the trunk.
- Ensure all fire exits are easily accessible and not blocked. Although it may seem like a warm welcome, avoid placing your Christmas tree by the front door. It won’t be so merry and bright if people can’t leave in a fire emergency.
- Water the tree daily so its needles don’t dry out. Without watering, needles become dry and are highly likely to catch fire.
- Never use lit candles on your tree.
- Remember to turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving or going to bed.
This video demo shows how fast a real Christmas tree burns if it isn't watered properly each day.
Having a merry little Christmas
- Tell guests about your home fire escape plan. “Make sure you get out, and call a fire department from outside your home,” Butch says.
- Keep children and pets away from candle flames.
- More family members and guests means more fire hazards. Butch advises to be aware of what’s going on in your home.
- Watch the stovetop at all times when cooking holiday meals. Grease that hasn’t been cleaned from the stove or oven can cause a fire. “Cooking is a big hazard,” Butch says. “Stay in the kitchen so you can quickly turn the power off or remedy something that would be a catastrophe.”
- If anyone wants to smoke, ask them to light up outside and away from greenery and garland. Advise smokers to keep their cigarettes and lighters out of children’s reach.
- Wet cigarette butts before discarding in the trash, and place cooled ashes in a tightly covered metal container that is stored at least 10 feet away from your home and any nearby buildings or storage sheds.
- Plug only one heat-producing appliance into an electrical outlet at a time to avoid overloading electrical sockets.
- Be careful when using space heaters. Make sure they don’t emit carbon monoxide, and only plug them into approved wall sockets.
- Turn off all string lights and decorations before leaving the house or going to sleep.
- Discard your Christmas tree promptly as dry branches are dangerous and susceptible to fire.
- Do not leave your tree in the garage or place it outside against your home.
- Bring outdoor lights inside to prevent hazards and to help them last longer.
Restaurants, stores and other commercial spaces
Butch has some good tips and advice for businesses during the holiday season.
- Maintain safe egress, or exit, in showroom areas. The gift-giving season means stores are fully stocked and have more inventory than usual.
- Be wary of overhead stock storage and the danger of items collapsing.
- Usually, communities ramp up code inspections during this time of year, so make sure you’re up to code. “Maintenance codes and international fire codes are good for a building to live by,” Butch says. “They help look at how you maintain safety.”
- An increase in combustible debris is a fire hazard. Ensure your space is clean.
- Protect commercial kitchens with the Amerex kitchen protection system, which features maximum agent discharge using fewer nozzles and extended coverage for high-risk zones.
- In distribution or storage areas, make sure you have an Amerex water mist extinguisher that has a UL 2A rating for Class A materials like wood and cardboard.
Rob Ross, an application engineer on our Amerex vehicle systems team, is involved in writing fire code for commercial properties. He recommends that businesses reach out to their state or national fire marshal if they think something is questionable in their operations. He explains the relationship between business owners and fire marshals as more of a partnership. “It’s important to keep your employees and customers safe,” Rob says.
Protecting against fire hazards
- It’s imperative to have an ABC, or multi-purpose, fire extinguisher. Know where it should be placed, and watch a video to ensure you know how to operate and activate it.
- Many people do not realize how powerful a fire is or how quickly a fire can get out of control. Attending virtual trainings and educational sessions can help.
- Lastly, don’t intentionally put yourself in harm’s way. Think before you act.
Watch our latest YouTube video to learn more about to properly operate a hand portable fire extinguisher.
Don’t forget to check out all of our digital offerings:
View the entire Amerex product line on our Web Store.
Subscribe to our YouTube page for video tutorials and product information.