The winter holiday season should be a joyous time of year. However, certain types of fires and injuries associated with decorating are all too common and can put a damper on holiday celebrations.
“December is the peak month for home candle fires,” Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak said. “Two out of five home decoration fires are started by candles. To decrease your risk for a home fire, keep safety in mind as you deck the halls this season.”
The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office encourages Tennesseans to consider using flameless candles, which look and smell like real candles. However, if you do use traditional candles, keep them at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and remember to blow them out when you leave the room or go to bed. Avoid using candles in the bedroom where one-third of U.S. candle fires begin or other areas where people may fall asleep.
According to the state’s fire incident reporting system, candle-related fires in Tennessee during 2015 have already caused 3 fire deaths, 62 house fires, and over $3.7 million in property loss.
Consider the tips below when you bring out the holiday decorations this year. And remember, as in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, test them monthly and keep them equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Don’t forget to practice your home escape plan.
• Maintain your holiday lights. Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Not all holiday lights are made equal so be sure that you know whether yours are for indoor or outdoor use and use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory. Use clips, not nails, to hang lights to keep cords from getting damaged.
• Do not overload electrical outlets. Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch.
• Do not leave holiday lights on unattended. Turn them off when you leave the house or go to bed.
• Use only nonflammable decorations. All decorations should be flame resistant or flame retardant and placed away from heat vents and other heat sources.
• Never put wrapping paper in a fireplace. It can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers and may result in a chimney fire.
• Take care with Christmas trees. Do not let live trees dry out. Keep them watered and recycle them promptly after the holiday. If you are using a metallic or artificial tree make sure it is flame retardant.
• Avoid using lit candles to decorate. If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never put lit candles on a tree. Blow out lit candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Never leave a child alone in a room with a lit candle.
• Keep escape routes clear. Do not block exit routes with trees or decorations.