How Holiday Fires Start and How to Prevent Them
The winter holidays are considered the season of light, but light can be a source of danger. The number of house fires soars in the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Christmas trees, menorahs, candles, electrical decorations, cooking, and fireworks are all potential sources of danger.
Holiday Fire Statistics
According to the National Fire Protection Association, fire departments responded to about 200 Christmas tree fires every holiday season. And every year, these fires cause an average of 6 deaths, 16 injures, and almost $15 million in property damage. Christmas tree fires are also more deadly than most interior fires, resulting in a casualty every 32 fires, rather than every 143 fires—the statistic for total home fires.
But it’s not just Christmas trees. Other holiday decorations also account for an additional 840 fires per year.
Causes of Holiday Fires
What causes these holiday fires?
- Overloading electrical cords or having a heat source, such as a candle or heater, too close to the tree.
- In general, placing candles too close to flammable objects (including candles in menorahs).
- Candles account for a third of all holiday fires. And fires started by candles are most likely to occur on holidays themselves—Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day—rather than throughout the season.
- Leaving or allowing decorations to dangle too close to stovetops and other cooking equipment.
- Because of holiday cooking, firefighters respond to the most kitchen fires on Thanksgiving Day, Thanksgiving Eve, and Christmas Day.
Christmas tree fires are also more deadly than most interior fires, resulting in a casualty every 32 fires, rather than every 143 fires.
How to Minimize Holiday Fire Risks
- Prevent kitchen fires by keeping kitchen towels away from stovetops and other heat sources. Clean up greasy spills as they happen. If you’re using a deep fryer, be sure to keep it away from heat sources and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Choose your tree wisely. If your tree has green needles that hold tight when tugged, it’s less likely to catch fire than a tree that’s already browning and losing needles. (And when your once-fresh tree starts browning and dropping needles, it’s time to get it out of your house.)
- Water your tree daily to keep it from drying out. Set it up at least three feet from candles, heaters, radiators, fireplaces, and other heat sources.
- Make sure to only use lights and decorations that are certified flame retardant. You can find out if your decorations are safe by checking their labels.
- If your decorations have frayed electrical cords, throw them out.
- Don’t connect too many lights strands to each other. Keep it to three strands of interconnected lights, max.
- Turn off all electrical decorations before going to bed.
- Keep wrapping paper, cloth, and other flammable materials at least three feet away from fireplaces, and make sure to put out a fire completely before going to bed.
- Keep your doorways and exits clear.
- Finally, regularly test your smoke alarms.
Don’t Play With Fire
Keep matches out of reach of children, and use general common sense around fire. Disturbingly, nearly a quarter of Christmas tree fires are intentionally set, as are ten percent of all holiday decoration fires.
Make Sure You Have Proper Insurance
Do you have enough homeowners or renter’s insurance to completely cover your assets in the event of a fire? If you’d like to learn more about homeowner policies and fire protection, talk to one of our agents.