Keeping Your Home Safe Is the Season’s Top Priority

Christmas Fire Safety Tips 

By Jason Jones 

Messenger Reporter 

EAST TEXAS – The lights around the Christmas tree are twinkling, the candles are burning bright, and the fireplace is producing a warm glow. Your home is never cozier than it is during Christmastime. Your living space may look more inviting than ever during the holidays, but those festive additions also bring an increased risk of fire to your home. According to the National Fire Protection Association, between 2013 and 2017 U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 940 home fires started by Christmas trees and other holiday decorations each year. But with these expert-backed Christmas fire safety tips from former firefighters and other safety professionals, you can still make your home festive while keeping it safe this holiday season.  

Don’t use your oven for storage or heat. 

Many people place their cookie sheets and other bakeware in their ovens when they’re not using them, but it’s never a good idea to use the appliance as storage space. Fire prevention experts explicitly warn against it, noting that something flammable could accidentally be left behind and cause an oven fire. 

Also, even when it gets extra cold this Christmas season, think twice before using your oven or stove to provide extra heat for your home. Although this is not an uncommon practice, ovens and stoves are not specifically set up for heating purposes, and as such are unsafe to use in this manner. 

Water your real Christmas tree daily. 

The quickest way to accidentally make your tree go up in flames is to let it go unwatered. Homeowners with real Christmas trees should frequently check that their trees don’t have any tinder-dry areas. Just one spark anywhere near dry wood can start a fire in a mere 30 seconds. 

Ensure that your live tree is fresh. The needles should be hard to pull from the branches and don’t break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of the trunk should be sticky with resin. If you tap the tree on the ground, few needles should fall off. 

Only put up fire-resistant artificial trees. 

If you’re not looking to keep up with the maintenance and possible danger of having a real Christmas tree, don’t think you’re in the clear with just any artificial tree you find in a store or online. When purchasing an artificial tree, make sure it’s fire resistant. While this label doesn’t mean the tree won’t catch fire, the tree will better resist burning and can be extinguished more quickly. 

Don’t throw wrapping paper in your fireplace. 

On Christmas morning, don’t make the mistake of throwing the wrapping paper from the gifts in the fireplace. Wrapping paper creates way too much heat and increases the risk of a chimney fire. It puts too much heat in the chimney, and if you have any combustibles in there, that heat will ignite it. 

Follow the “rule of three” when it comes to power strips. 

With Christmas lights, space heaters, and all the electronics of everyday life, there’s a lot to be plugged in during the holiday season. With electrical fires being a real concern, proper precautions need to be followed. Experts recommend following the “rule of three” when it comes to power strips, meaning no more than three electronics should be plugged into a single strip at one time. 

Never use an extension cord or power strip with your space heater. 

When it comes to space heaters and extension cords, the two should never meet. When you buy a space heater, it will come with a certain length of cord, and you never want to extend that by using an extension cord. When you extend the cord length, you overload the cord, and it gets hot. As a result, it can burn through a rug or the insulation and set something on fire or create an electrical shock. Also, never plug a space heater into any type of multi-socket power strip. Plug it directly into the wall. 

Don’t use indoor lights outside. 

There are specific kinds of Christmas lights for outdoor use. Only use lights that are explicitly labeled for such use. Most indoor lights have thinner cords that can easily be damaged and become prone to fire when exposed to harsh weather conditions. 

Set timers when cooking and baking. 

There’s nothing quite like the perfect Christmas meal, but caution must be taken while preparing the holiday feast. Take your time with Christmas cooking, and don’t leave it for the last moment. It can be challenging to prepare a meal with all the guests and excitement around you. Fire accidents caused by forgotten food are common during this time of year. 

Have multiple fire extinguishers and know how to use them. 

Experts recommend not only keeping a couple of fire extinguishers in your home during the winter, but also learning how to use them properly. Use the P.A.S.S. method when using fire extinguishers: PULL the pin on the extinguisher; AIM the nozzle at the base of the fire; SQUEEZE the handle to release the extinguishing agent; and SWEEP the nozzle side to side at the base of the fire until it goes out. 

Exercise caution when it comes to candles. 

Although candles may be pretty, having an open flame in your home is an easy way to start a fire. Battery-operated candles are a great alternative if you want the look without the potential risks of an actual flame. But if you find yourself still wanting to use real candles, place them far away from the Christmas tree and other flammable decorations like garlands, twigs, and flowers. 

Make sure your home is equipped with functioning smoke alarms. 

Having a working smoke detector in your home can mean the difference between life or death when it comes to a holiday home fire. Experts note that smoke alarms should be installed on every level of the home, inside every bedroom, and outside sleeping areas. Test alarms every month and change batteries every six months. 

Jason Jones may be reached via email at [email protected] 

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