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Keep your home safe from fire hazards this holiday season

December 19, 2014

The holidays are a wonderful time of year, and chances are you are going to be spending the coming days with family and friends—maybe some of which you haven't seen in a long time. Whether you are hosting a holiday event or meal at your home, or you are going to another person's residence, be aware of potential hazards that can happen during the holidays. This is especially true of fires.

Holiday decorations can be dangerous if not watched.
While it is not pleasant to associate house fires with the holidays, the U.S. Fire Administration warned that over 150,000 fires happen over the holiday season each year. On average, these fires claim around 630 lives, cause 2,600 injuries and cost roughly $936 million in property damage. This is troubling, and there are many added fire risks when it comes to the holiday season. In particular, holiday decorations can be dangerous if not watched. In addition to relying on your home insurance, just be safe.

Holiday decorations should be enjoyed but not ignored

Many decorations are affiliated with the season, but some present more risk of hazard than others, especially when left unattended. Here are some examples:

  • Christmas trees: These are typically the focal point of a gift exchange and great fun to decorate. However, it is important to make sure your tree is watered. Once trees are cut they can dry out easily. Consequently, stringing them with lights increases the chances of a hazard—not to mention the bottom of the tree is a pile of gifts wrapped in paper. If using a real tree, keeping it watered is extremely important. If using a fake tree, still keep an eye on it. Many fake trees are coated with flame retardants, but safety is key.
  • Candles:  Candles are a major source of decoration during the holidays regardless of denomination. Candle safety is important year round, but more candles are typically used during the holidays and during winter in general. Be sure to place your candles away from curtains, paper decorations, the Christmas tree, children's reach and any other places where they might pose a threat. You know your home and are aware of where candles should be placed, so use your best judgment.
  • Kitchen appliances:  There is no doubt the kitchen is used more during the holidays. From baking cookies to roasting turkeys, the oven is typically left on longer and more is going in and out of it. Fires aren't the only hazard when it comes to hot pots, pans and appliances. Be careful of little ones running around or pets strolling through, as burns are also common. Keep the kitchen free of clutter and minimize the amount of paper or flammable decorations in the kitchen. It is also important to keep your exhaust fan on to help remove some of the heat that will surely build up.
  • Exposed wires: With lights, model villages and all sorts of other decorations, you may have more exposed wires than are typically in the house. If your decorations are reused from year to year, it is important to make sure those wires are still intact. Bends or tears in the wires can be dangerous. Also, it is important to cover these wires or contain them as much as possible. This is not only for fires, but also to protect little ones from finding the wires or guests from tripping.

While much of this is common knowledge, it is important to be reminded. Many people get carried away with decorating and think about how good something looks without considering the implications or dangers of location. Enjoy your holiday season and decorate to the fullest—just do so safely.