For the warmth and light they offer to a cold, dark season, the winter holidays are cherished. But this wondrous time of year is not danger-free. Nearly 47,000 fires occur during the winter holidays, claiming over 500 lives, injuring thousands of people, and resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars of property damage, according to the American Red Cross.
Fortunately, with a little consideration and preparation, many holiday fire risks can be reduced. Here's how to prevent some of the common holiday fires.
Keep them three feet away from heat sources such as fireplaces and radiators, put trees (and fir wreaths and garlands) and never use lit candles to decorate a tree. (To achieve that effect, use battery-operated ones.) Check that artificial trees are made of flame-resistant or flame-retardant materials, as well as decorations.
To prevent it from being dry, select one that is freshly cut, with intact needles, and water it regularly when decorating a live tree. When the needles start to dry out and drop, it's time to discard the tree. While Christmas tree fires are not widespread, if they do occur, the explosiveness of dry trees makes them extremely dangerous.
Use a tree stand which cannot tip over and make sure the tree lights are unplugged overnight and once you leave the building.
Give Candles Their Distance
56 percent of candle fires occur when anything flammable is left too close to a burning candle, the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) estimates. Keep candles at least one foot away from anything else that could catch fire, such as ornaments or curtains. (Give even more room to other heat sources, including portable heaters.)
Choose battery-powered lights while putting candles in the windows. When you are asleep or away from home, do not leave candles burning; you should literally extinguish flames once you leave the space. Place them in durable holders that cannot tip over if you burn candles and place them where they are unlikely to be accidentally knocked over.
Place menorahs, kinaras, and decorative candles on a non-flammable surface like a granite countertop; lay down aluminum foil or other flame-resistant material first if you need to use a wood surface.