Every year the holiday season sneaks up on us and we are consumed with the activities of the season. It’s merriment and the gathering of family and friends; the year-end holiday season is a joyous time of year indeed, but, it is also the prime time for fires in residential settings. Included are civilian injuries and in some cases, loss of lives.
Holiday trees and decorations
According to a report from the National Fire Protection Association:
“NFPA estimates that Christmas trees, both natural and artificial, were the item first ignited in an estimated average of 240 reported home structure fires per year during 2005-2009. These fires caused an estimated average of 13 civilian deaths, 27 civilian injuries, and $16.7 million in direct property damage per year. During the same period, holiday lights and other decorative lighting with line voltage were involved in an estimated average of 150 home structure fires per year. These fires caused an average of eight civilian deaths, 14 civilian injuries, and $8.5 million in direct property damage per year.”
“Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries, while smoking materials remain the leading causes of home fire deaths. Half of all home fire deaths result from incidents reported between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. One-quarter of all home fire deaths were caused by fires that started in the bedroom; 24 percent resulted from fires originating in the living room, family room, or den; and 15 percent were caused by fires starting in the kitchen. Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in which no smoke alarms were present or in which smoke alarms were present but failed to operate.”
“Based on data from the U.S. Fire Administration’s (USFA’s) National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and the NFPA’s annual fire department experience survey, NFPA estimates that candles were the heat source in an estimated average of 12,860 reported home fires annually during 2005-2009. These fires caused an average of 136 civilian deaths, 1,041 civilian injuries and $471 million in direct property damage per year. Roughly one-third of home candle fires started in the bedroom. More than half of the fires occurred because the candle was too close to something that could burn. Candles used for light in the absence of electrical power appear to pose a particular risk of fatal fire. Home candle fires climbed through the 1990s but have been falling since the 2001 peak.”
“In 2009, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 58,900 reported home structure fires, 480 civilian deaths, 1,520 civilian injuries and $1.1 billion in direct property damage.
“In 2005-2009, most home heating fire deaths (79 percent) and injuries (66 percent) and half of associated direct property damage involved stationary or portable space heaters. Space heating poses a much higher risk of fire, death, injury and loss per million users than central heating.”
• Be careful with holiday decorations. Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.
• Keep lit candles away from decorations and other things that can burn.
• Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
• Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini light sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of LED strands to connect.
• Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.
• Keep decorations away from windows and doors.
• Test your smoke alarms and tell guests about your home fire escape plan.
• Keep children and pets away from lit candles.
• Keep matches and lighters up high in a locked cabinet.
• Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stovetop.
• Ask smokers to smoke outside. Remind smokers to keep their smoking materials with them so young children do not touch them.
• Provide large, deep ashtrays for smokers. Wet cigarette butts with water before discarding.
Being careful and using the tips provided by NFPA above will help ensure a happy and fire safety holiday season for you and your family.
All resource material provided by NFPA at NFPA.org
Bart Wright, CFPS
Maitland Fire Department