The holidays are a busy time, to say the very least. Among a thousand social obligations, extensive shopping, and the usual day-to-day rigmarole, we can add to our lists a few other things: we pick out and put up our trees, decorate for the season, and welcome others into our homes for food, games, and general merriment. The truth is—because we’re all indoors and doing whatever we can to stay warm and cozy—the risk for home fires is higher now than at any other time of year.
Between hanging lights, lighting candles, decorating trees, and using the fireplace, there are plenty of possibilities for oversights that can lead to home fires. To that end, we thought we might offer a few simple tips for avoiding just such an accident.
Below are some helpful recommendations from the Red Cross and the National Association of Fire Protection:
Never leave burning candles unattended (especially not with children), and don’t burn them in rooms where people sleep. One statistic says that over 10% of candle fires are started when someone falls asleep while the flame is still burning.
When decorating outside, make sure decorations are for outdoor use and fasten lights securely to your home or trees. If using hooks or nails outside, make sure they are insulated to avoid an electrocution or fire hazard.
Check all holiday light cords. In addition to making sure they aren’t frayed or broken, be sure to avoid stringing too many lights together. A good rule of thumb: no more than three strands per extension cord.
If you’re buying an artificial tree, check for a fire-resistant label, and keep it away from fireplaces, radiators and other sources of heat.
If your tree is a live one, make sure it’s fresh and water it to keep it that way. Check to be sure that needles aren’t falling off too easily.
If you’re hanging stockings on the fireplace mantel, avoid lighting fires (or move them to a location that poses less risk).
Keep all candles on stable, clear surfaces and be sure candle holders are sturdy enough to keep them from toppling over while burning. Any/all vessels should be heat resistant and large enough to contain wax drippings.
Always blow out candles before they burn all the way down, as glass can explode.
Don’t forget to turn off all holiday lights when going to bed or leaving the house.
Check your smoke detectors and have a “home fire escape plan” that everyone at home is familiar with.
Of course, hazards aside, we all know that winter feels a bit cozier with the flicker of a few candles in the home. We’re all for the lighting they provide, but with over 8,600 home fires caused annually by candles, we thought we’d offer an alternative that will have your home smelling delightful (sans the threat of a small disaster).
For a great flameless option:
To a saucepan, add 2 sprigs of rosemary, orange slices, 1 tablespoon of whole cloves, 3-5 cinnamon sticks, and ½ cup of fresh cranberries. Fill with water and bring it all to a nice simmer for a home that smells like that scene from White Christmas where Bing, Rosemary, Danny, and Vera all sing around the tree on stage. (Note: we recommend you check the pot every 30 minutes or so as the water evaporates.)