With all of the cooking, candles and company that fill our homes during the final weeks of December, the danger of a home fire increase dramatically. In fact, the two busiest days for home fires after Thanksgiving Day are Christmas Eve and Christmas Day—mostly due to the amount of cooking that takes place. That’s why the American Red Cross is urging everyone to take a few simple actions to be home fire aware during the holidays.
1. Place trees, wreaths and other holiday decorations at least three feet away from heat sources like fireplaces, portable heaters, radiators, heat vents and candles.
2. Purchase flame retardant artificial trees or greens. If you purchase a real tree or greens, make sure they have fresh, green needles that aren’t easily broken. Keep them as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water.
3. Electrical fires increase during the holidays due to the extra demand to make your home jolly and bright, so never overload an outlet. Also, make sure that light strings and other holiday decorations are in good condition. Do not use anything with frayed electrical cords and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
4. Always unplug holiday lights and extinguish candles before leaving home or going to bed.
5. Keep curious pets and children away from trees, Kwanzaa or menorah candle stands, all of which can be easily toppled.
6. Designate one person to walk around your home to make sure all candles and smoking materials are properly extinguished after guests leave.
7. Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year. Smoke alarms save lives.
8. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires during the holidays. To keep your holiday disaster free, follow these safety tips:
* Be sure to clean all cooking surfaces to prevent grease buildup.
* Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the cooking area.
* Stay in the kitchen while frying, grilling or broiling food. Turn burners off if leaving the kitchen. Unattended food is the most common cause of kitchen fires.
* Keep a pan lid or baking sheet nearby. Use it to cover the pan if it catches on fire.
“The holidays are a wonderful time of year, but the risk of a home fire goes up dramatically,” says Debbie Smith, Community Executive of the Ohio River Valley American Red Cross. “Nearly 47,000 fires occur during the winter holidays, causing more than 500 deaths and 2,200 injuries, and costing $554 million in property damage. Candle fires are four times more like to occur. And one of every 22 fires caused by a Christmas tree catching fire results in death. We want everyone to have a great holiday season, but we want everyone to be safe at the same time.”