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Holiday Fire Hazards

Paul Sancya/AP Photo

Utica, NY (WIBX) – The holiday season is a time for celebration but also a time for increased fire risks according to the National Fire Protection Association. The non-profit agency is leading the national campaign to raise awareness about the dangers candles, Christmas trees, holiday decorations and especially cooking present.

Lorraine Carli, Vice President of Communications for NFPA said on a yearly average about 3,000 people die in home fires, and the risks for fire accidents increase during the holiday season. She said, “We see a number of fires during this time of year associated with things like candles and decorations, but in general cooking is the leading cause of home fires so that’s another area where people need to be a little bit more cautious.” Carli said although significant progress has been made in decreasing the number of home fire fatalities, more needs to be done to get the message across about preventable fires, especially around the holiday season when families tend to gather more than usual.

She said space heaters are also responsible for a large number of preventable fires. “But by understanding where potential hazards exists, and making some minor adjustments, people can greatly increase their homes and loved ones safety, and enjoy the season as planned,” she said.

The NFPA holiday safety tips are as follows:

Cooking:

Cooking equipment fires are the leading cause of U.S. home fires and fire injuries, and the third leading cause of home fire deaths. In 2008, relative to an average day, the number of home cooking equipment fires was 55% higher on Christmas Eve and 68% higher on Christmas Day.

  • Stay in the kitchen while you’re frying, grilling or broiling food. Most cooking fires involve the stovetop. Keep anything that can catch fire away from it, and turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even if it’s for a short period of time. If you’re simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking. For homes with children, create a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food and drinks are prepared or carried.

Christmas Trees:

U.S. fire departments annually respond to roughly 260 home structure fires that began with Christmas trees. One third of them are caused by electrical problems, and one in five resulted from a heat source that’s too close to the tree.

  • If you have an artificial tree, be sure it’s labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant. If you choose a fresh tree, make sure the green needles don’t fall off when touched; before placing it in the stand, cut 1-2” from the base of the trunk. Add water to the tree stand, and be sure to water it daily. Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit, and is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles and heat vents or lights. Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory, and make sure you know whether they are designed for indoor or outdoor use. Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords, or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini-string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Never use lit candles to decorate the tree. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for the number of LED strands to connect. Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving the room or going to bed. After Christmas, get rid of the tree. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside the home. Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.

Candles:

December is the peak month for home candle fires, with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day representing two of the five top days for associated fires. NFPA statistics show that more than half of all candle fires start when placing them too close to things that can burn.

  • Consider using flameless candles, which look and smell like real candles. If you do use traditional candles, keep them at least 12” away from anything that can burn, and remember to blow them out when you leave the room or go to bed. Use candle holders that are sturdy, won’t tip over and are placed on uncluttered surfaces. Avoid using candles in the bedroom where two of five U.S. candle fires begin or other areas where people may fall asleep. Never leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle. For additional resources and information about holiday fire safety, including audio clips, videos and safety sheets, visit NFPA’s website at:http://www.nfpa.org/holiday.

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