According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), fires occurring during the holiday season claim the lives of over 400 people each year, injure 1,650 more, and cause over $990 million in damage. By following these tips, you can be sure of a safe and happy holiday.
• If you use an artificial Christmas tree, be sure it is flame retardant.
• Don’t use flammable decorations.
• Keep decorations away from heat vents and other heat sources.
• Don’t burn gift wrapping paper in the fireplace. Wrapping paper tends to burn hotly and fast, and can throw off sparks that could start a chimney fire.
Christmas Tree Care
A Christmas tree on fire can quickly fill a room with fire and deadly toxic gases. Take special precautions when you bring a live tree into your home.
• Picking a tree: Needles should be green and not easy to be pulled from the branches. The trunk of the tree should be sticky from sap. When you’re picking a tree, stand it upright and bounce the tree trunk on the ground. If needles fall off, it’s probably too dry to buy.
• Tree care: Never stand a tree near a heat source, like a heat vent or fireplace. Heat will dry out the tree and make it a fire hazard. Keep the tree stand filled with water. Don’t keep a Christmas tree in your home longer than about two weeks.
• Tree disposal: Don’t burn it in the woodstove or fireplace. Best to take it to a local recycling center, where they will run it through a wood chipper. You might even be able to scoop up some wood chips and take them home for landscaping.
• Before you install lights: check each strand of lights for cracked wires, frayed wires, broken light sockets or kinks in the wires. Lights are really cheap. When in doubt, throw out the old lights and buy new.
• No overloaded electrical outlets. Connect all your strings of lights to an extension cord, and then plug the extension cord into the electrical outlet. Come back a little later and check the lights. If you feel the cords or plugs and they are warm to the touch, unplug them and change outlets. Plugs and wires should never be warm.
• Don’t leave holiday lights unattended. I handled a claim for some people who placed those single electric candles in each window. It sure was beautiful...but one of the candles caught the drapes on fire and burned the house down. Hundreds of house fires happen each year from unattended decorative lights.
• There are few things as pretty as lit candles. But only use lit candles when you’re present to care for them.
• Make sure the candles are in candle holders that are stable, and not placed where they could easily be knocked over.
• Never use lit candles on a Christmas tree. Never.
• Never leave the house when candles are burning.
Finally, make sure you have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home. Test them once a month and keep them clean. Make sure they have fresh batteries at all times. Then, Have a Merry Christmas!
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