The last thing anyone wants to think of during the holiday season is a home fire. But unfortunately, fires break out more frequently at Christmas for holiday-related reasons. That prompted MS News Now to print “12 Days of Christmas fire safety tips” from the Mississippi Fire Marshall on Dec. 14. Here’s a Christmas countdown to fire safety.
Light candles with care. Candles are used in many religious holiday celebrations: Jewish Chanukah menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, Advent wreaths and Christmas holiday decorations. But lovely as candles are, they are a leading cause of home fires. Be sure to extinguish candles before bed. Beware of tall pillar candles. As the wick burns down into the candle, the flame is more difficult to see and you may forget it’s lit. This author caused a home fire one Christmas because she forgot to extinguish a burned down candle. It caught the candle’s decorative wreath base on fire. In just a few moments the curtain was in flames. The smoke alarm woke the family who would have slept right through it. They learned that fire is quiet and that it spreads rapidly. A mobile home goes up in about 15 minutes.
Avoid candles in cheap glass holders. After burning awhile, the glass may crack under the heat. Select votive candles in heat-safe glass. The best “candles” are battery-powered. Don’t decorate the Christmas tree with lit candles. Keep candles away from flammable items (Christmas tree, curtains, holiday decorations).
Choose flame retardant holiday decorations made non-combustible materials for fire safety. Inspect new and previously used light strings carefully and replace light strings with damaged cords before use. Use holiday lights with UL (Underwriter’s Laboratories) approval. Do not overload extension cords. Be careful of 6-prong outlet extenders and power strips. Don’t use all outlets at once.
Keep children and pets away candles, electrical outlets, strings of Christmas lights and electrical holiday decorations. For optimal fire safety, keep holiday decorations minimal, non-electric and candle-free in homes with small children.
Tend your Christmas tree. Keep a live Christmas tree watered–add one quart of water per inch of tree trunk diameter daily. Remove dead branches and vacuum needles. The Christmas tree shouldn’t block the exit. It should be at least three feet away heat sources like fireplaces, heat vents, radiators, candles or lights. Take the Christmas tree down when it gets dry. Don’t burn a Christmas tree in the fire place as evergreen boughs may explode.
Unattended food cooking is the number one cause of home fires in the U.S. Pay extra attention when doing holiday cooking or baking when you have several pans going simultaneously. Mind little children around the stove top range and over. Use flame retardant, silicone or coated pot holders and over mitts. Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove to prevent children pulling over or accidentally knocking pans off stove. Never use glass bakeware on the stove top or over open flame.
Ask the smokers smoke outside. If you allow smoking in the house, provide large, deep ashtrays. Wet cigarette butts with water before discarding. Check after parties for smoldering cigarettes, cigars or pipes. Extinguish fireplace fires completely using sand (not water). Teach children fire safety and be sure to have a family escape plan.