The year-end holiday season - Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year's - coincides with heating season. That, combined with the use of decorative lights and candles and parties where people drink and smoke, increases the likelihood of a fire. The most important thing you can do to be fire-safe is to plan ahead and pay attention.
Fire Safety is just as important during the holiday as it is all year. In fact, it's even more important because of the extra responsibilities that special occasions bring.
Space Heaters: Keep anything that can burn at least three feet (one meter) away from stoves, fireplaces, space heaters, and portable heaters. Keep space heaters and portable heaters at least three feet (one meter) away from walls.
Always use the proper fuel for liquid-fuel heaters, be sure they are vented properly, and refill them only in well-ventilated areas and when they are cool. Make sure the type of space heater you use is legal in your area and bears the label of an independent testing laboratory.
Central Heating: Have furnace installations and all chimneys inspected and cleaned once a year (before the heating season begins) or whenever you suspect a problem.
Fireplaces: Keep fireplace fires small, and always use a fireplace screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room. Do not leave children alone in a room with a fireplace fire. Never burn trash or paper in a fireplace; burning paper can float up your chimney and onto your roof or into your yard. Remove ashes in a metal container and store them outside.
Celebrating with Children
Matches and Lighters: Use only lighters designed to be child resistant, and keep all matches and lighters out of children's reach - up high and preferably in a locked cabinet. Teach older children how to light candles and fireplace fires safely, and supervise them carefully.
Party Safety: Use only flame-retardant or noncombustible materials for costumes and decorations. Use chafing dishes with caution. Provide smokers with large, deep, non-tip ashtrays, and keep an eye on anyone who is drinking and smoking. Empty ashtrays often - wet their contents before dumping them. After the party, check cushions and furniture for smoldering cigarette butts.
Lights and Candles
Electric Lights: Be sure all indoor and outdoor holiday lights bear the label of an independent testing laboratory. Throw away any set of lights that has cracked or frayed cords or loose or damaged sockets. Do not overload electrical outlets or run extension cords under carpets, across doorways, or near heaters. Be sure extension cords aren't pinched behind or under furniture, and unplug all decorative lights before leaving your home or going to bed. Never use electric lights on a metal Christmas tree.
Candles: Put candles in non-tip candle holders and light them only when they are securely in their holders. Never burn candles near a Christmas tree or decorations or displays. Keep candles well away from curtains and other combustibles, and never put candles in windows or near exits. Don't leave candles burning unattended or within the reach of small children. Extinguish candles before you leave a room or go to bed.
Choose a fresh-cut Christmas tree. If you're not cutting it yourself, buy a tree that's not shedding its needles. Install the tree in a large, deep non-tip stand well away from fireplaces, exits, and heat sources. Be sure your tree has a constant supply of water - check the level daily. Remove your tree promptly if it becomes dry. Store it well away from your home until you can dispose of it. If you use an artificial tree, be sure it's flame-retardant.
New Year's Tips
- At a party, check to be sure the exits are clear.
- Never let friends drink excessively. Alcohol affects judgment and coordination.
- Check under furniture and cushions for smoldering cigarettes.
- Follow safety guidelines when using fireworks. Better yet, attend a public display operated by professionals.
4th of July & Outdoor Cooking Tips
- Check to be sure local laws permit private fireworks celebrations.
- Adults should supervise the use of fireworks.
- Sparks and smoldering embers from fireworks can start fires. Have water nearby for emergencies.
- Always light fireworks one at a time.
- Keep grills a safe distance from houses and overhangs.
- Use only properly labeled starter fluid, never substitute gasoline or kerosene.
- Never apply fire starter to a smoldering fire. Instead, add dry kindling and blow gently across the coals.
- Never leave outdoor cooking unattended.
- Costumes and decorations should only be made of flame-retardant materials. Avoid loose, flammable clothing.
- Each mask, wig, and costume must be easily seen at night.
- Use battery-powered lights for jack-o-lanterns, not candles.
- Keep decorations away from sources of heat, such as exposed bulbs and open flames.
- Start holiday cooking with a clean stove and oven.
- Keep kitchen clutter and loose clothing away from the stove's heat.
- Turn pot handles in, away from a child's reach.
- Use pot holders to prevent burns.
- Never throw water on a grease fire. Instead, cover the burning pan with a lid.
- Keep all appliances in good working order.
- Never overload electrical outlets. Unplug appliances when not in use.
- Never leave cooking food unattended.
- Keep Thanksgiving decorations away from sources of direct heat.
- Make sure your Christmas tree is fresh. Shedding needles is a sign of a dry tree.
- Keep your tree fresh by placing it in a stand that holds water.
- Make sure artificial trees are flame-retardant.
- Never smoke around the tree or flammable decorations.
- Place trees away from direct sources of heat.
- Never place a tree so that it blocks an exit.
- Only buy electric lights that are approved by a national testing lab.
- Never decorate metal trees with electric lights.
- Always unplug lights before going to bed.
- Never run electrical cords through doorways and under rugs.
- Keep candles in sturdy holders and never place them near combustibles, such as curtains.
- Avoid hanging stockings near an open flame.
- Never burn paper in a fireplace. This is a major cause of chimney fires.