Christmas Fire Safety

CHRISTMAS FIRE SAFETY

       The Christmas holiday season will be here soon and is one of the happiest times of the year. Families and friends gather together to have parties, share meals, and exchange gifts. Sometimes we get so caught up in the moment that we forget to take time to think about safety concerns during the holidays. Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing for the holiday season.

       It all starts with a tree! When choosing your Christmas tree whether it is real or artificial there are a few things you should consider. When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly. Having a live tree in your home can be safe if you take the proper precautions. When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green; needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles. When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces and radiators. Because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways. Also be sure that the tree is secure in its stand. Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it picked up by your community sanitation service.                                                                                  

        When decorating your tree or home with lighting whether it is indoor or outdoor, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. For added electric-shock protection, plug electric lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples or run strings of lights through hooks. Do not use nails or tacks to hold strings in place. Run cords above ground, keeping them out of puddles and snow. Tape all plug connections with plastic electrical tape to make them as watertight as possible. To prevent moisture from entering bulb sockets, bulbs should face the ground. Never place furniture or other objects over electrical cords and in particular, never run electrical cords under a rug. With a rug covering a cord, any damage the cord may sustain can go unnoticed. Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire. Christmas wrapping and decorations can be highly combustible, and should be kept away from heat sources such as candles, lamps, heaters, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. Gift wrap and boxes should be collected as soon as gifts are opened, and discarded with the garbage or recycled where appropriate. When using lighted candles as decorations never put them on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.

       If you have a fireplace, have your chimney inspected at least once a year and have it cleaned if necessary. Always use a fire screen, and burn only material appropriate for fireplaces. Burn only wood – never burn trees or wreaths in a fireplace as the burning particles can float up your chimney and onto your roof or into your yard. Do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace, it is highly flammable and burns at extremely high temperatures because of the additives in the paper. All wrapping papers and boxes should be discarded in the garbage or recycled. Never use flammable liquids in a fireplace. Always remove ashes from your fireplace in a metal container. Ashes may rekindle, so never store them in your home.

When cooking for the holiday season, practice kitchen fire safety with your family. Do not leave cooking food unattended especially when cooking with oil or fat. If grease or oil ignites, remember to always have a lid nearby for the pots and pans you’re using. Should a fire occur, cover the container with a lid and turn the heat source off. You should also have an ABC fire extinguisher available in your home. Make sure your home is equipped with at least one working smoke detector on each level of your home. Have your family implement and practice an emergency home fire escape plan. Following these few fire safety tips will help to ensure you have a safe and happy holiday season. If you have any questions or would like to learn more information on fire safety you can visit our website at www.woodbridgefireprevention.org .