Fire Safety at the Holidays

Battery-powered candles

FEMA and its partners, the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association, want you to be safe this holiday season, and that begins with taking measures to prevent fire. FEMA reports that more than one-third of home decoration fires are started by candles, and in December that fraction increases to one-half. December 25 is the peak day for candle fires.

The American Red Cross reports that the winter holidays see almost 47,000 fires annually. These fires claim more than 500 lives and cause more than 2,200 injuries. One of every 22 home fires involving a Christmas tree results in death.

Light strands can also ignite fires. Every year, 770 house fires in this country are caused by light strands.

So what can you do to stay safe? Follow these guidelines:

  • If you light a candle keep it at least 12 inches away from anything that burns.
  • Christmas trees, especially dry ones that haven’t been watered daily, are highly flammable and will burn hot and fast. Check them daily and keep them well watered.
  • Keep any heat sources 3 feet away from trees; more than one in five Christmas tree fires is caused by a heat source too close.
  • Don’t connect too many light strands together; the instructions will tell you what the limit is.
  • Don’t overload your extension cords. These cords are rated according to the load they can carry.
  • Don’t use outdoor lights inside.
  • Make sure that your lights aren’t getting overheated.
  • Keep lights away from flammable materials.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them monthly.
  • Unplug your light strands before going to bed.
  • Recycle your old tree soon after the holidays before it dries out too much.
  • Make sure the light strands you use are approved by the national Underwriters Laboratory (UL) or another nationally recognized entity.


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