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    Holiday Fire Safety (November 2013)

    Decorating homes and businesses is a long-standing tradition around the holiday season. Unfortunately, these same decorations may increase your chances of fire. Based on data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), an estimated 240 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 150 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year. Together, these fires result in 21 deaths and $25.2 million in direct property damage.

    Following a few simple fire safety tips can keep electric lights, candles, and the ever popular Christmas tree and yuletide logs from creating a tragedy. Learn how to prevent a fire and make sure all exits are accessible and not blocked by decorations or trees. Remember: Celebrating with alcoholic beverages may impair judgment for proper control and extinguishment. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office asks for your help to ensure that you have a fire safe holiday season.

    Holiday Lights

    Maintain Your Holiday Lights

    Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.

    Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets

    Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch.

    Be Mindful of Exterior Decorations

    Trees are dormant in the winter and live on much less moisture. Even if snow is on the ground, holiday lights on trees beyond the home can provide an ignition source.

    Holiday Decorations

    Use Only Non-flammable Decorations

    All decorations should be non-flammable or flame resistant and placed away from heat vents. If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame resistant.

    Don't Block Exits

    Ensure that trees and other holiday decorations do not block an exit way. In the event of a fire, time is of the essence. A blocked entry/exit way puts you and your family at risk.

    Never Put Wrapping Paper in the Fireplace

    Wrapping paper in the fireplace can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers that may result in a chimney fire.

    Candle Care

    Never Leave a Burning Candle Unattended

    Consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look, smell and feel like real candles.

    If You Do Use Lit Candles

    Make sure candles are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn. Avoid using candles in bedrooms and sleeping areas.

    Never Put Lit Candles on a Tree

    Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame – candles, lighters, or matches.

    Christmas Trees

    What’s a traditional Christmas morning scene without a beautifully decorated tree? If your household includes a natural tree in its festivities, take to heart the sales person’s suggestion – “Keep the tree watered.”
    Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires annually. Typically, shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters, or matches start tree fires. Well-watered trees are not a problem. A dry and neglected tree can be.

    Selecting a Tree for the Holidays

    Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long and, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.

    Caring for Your Tree

    Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

    Disposing of Your Tree

    Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.

    Fireplace Safety

    More than one-third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances as the primary heat sources in their homes. Unfortunately, 36% of residential home fires occur each year. Many of these fires can be prevented. You can prevent the loss of life and property resulting from heating fires by being able to identify potential hazards and follow safety tips. Remember, fire safety is your personal responsibility…Fire Stops With You!

    Keep it Clean

    Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually. Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials. Keep air inlets on wood stoves open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces. Otherwise you may cause creosote buildup that could lead to a chimney fire.

    Safely Burn Fuels

    Never use flammable liquids to start a fire. Never burn cardboard boxes, trash, or debris in your fireplace or wood stove. Use only seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets.

    Protect the Outside of Your Home

    Stack firewood outdoors at least 30 feet away from your home. Keep your roof clear of leaves, pine needles, and other debris. Cover the chimney with a mesh screen spark arrester. And don’t forget to remove branches hanging above the chimney, flues or vents.

    Protect the Inside of Your Home

    Install smoke alarms on every level of your home to include the inside and outside of sleeping areas. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Provide proper venting systems for all heating equipment. Extend all vent pipes at least three feet above the roof. Never leave a fire unattended. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.

    Dispose of Properly

    Allow ashes to cool before disposing of them. Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least ten feet away from your home and any other nearby buildings. Never empty the ash directly into a trash can. Douse and saturate the ashes with water.

    Amber Luttrell
    Community Relations Manager

    November 20, 2013

    Last Updated: 4-7-2016