Christmas, it’s the season for delicious foods, homemade goodies, stockings and family. The changing weather calls for cozy sweaters and warming up by the fireplace in the company of loved ones you may not get to see year-round. However, Christmas also brings an increased risk of home fires.
The US Fire Administration has reported an average of 156,000 house fires per winter holiday season, resulting in over 600 deaths, 2,600 injuries and $900 million in property damage. Thanksgiving is reported to be the number one day for home cooking fires across America. But, don’t panic! While the danger is very real, there are simple steps you can take to significantly reduce the risk of fire.
Cooking in the kitchen
It is no surprise that the leading cause of kitchen fires is unattended cooking. Always stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. You don’t need to stand like a watchdog while simmering, roasting, baking or boiling; however, stay inside of your home at all times and monitor occasionally.
Use the back burners on your stove whenever possible and turn pan handles away from you to prevent accidental tipping. Prevent even more accidents by wearing snug clothing with sleeves that do not dangle dangerously close to your stovetop. Keep towels, oven mitts, potholders, paper products, wooden utensils, food packaging and other flammable objects away from any hot appliances.
If a small grease fire ignites inside of a pan, use an oven mitt and carefully slide a lid over the pan to smother the fire. Immediately turn off the burner and leave the lid in place until the pan is completely cool to prevent restarting the fire. Never pour water onto a grease fire! Any splashing can spread burning oil around your kitchen.
Winter Fire Safety for Children
Teaching your children about fire safety has never been more important than when you have a house full of people and a huge meal to cook. You may not have as much time to keep a watchful eye on your young children every second of every day during this hectic season. Relying on family and friends to help supervise children is a good start, but directly teaching children about fire safety can save lives.
Explain to children that cooking over a hot stove can be dangerous. Wave their hands a safe distance over the burner so they can feel the heat. Each family should set rules that work for their household. One rule you may consider is that children are not allowed within three feet of a heated stove or oven, kerosene heaters, electric heaters, space heaters, blazing fireplaces or any other type of heating device. This will protect them from burns and prevent them from accidentally setting an uncontrolled fire.
Protecting the Rest of Your Home
- If you're buying an artificial Christmas tree, it should bear the "Fire Resistant" label. While this type of tree can catch fire, it will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
- If you're buying a natural Christmas tree, buy the freshest you can find. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break. When tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles. Cut approximately 2 inches off the trunk's base to expose fresh wood for better water absorption. A tree will absorb as much as a gallon of water or more in the first 24 hours and one or more quarts a day thereafter.
- Only one extension cord should be used per outlet. Be careful where you place electrical cords: Don't run electrical cords under rugs; walking traffic can weaken the insulation and the wires can overheat, increasing the chances for fire or electric shock.
- Turn off all lights before going to bed or leaving the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
- Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree.
- Two out of 5 home decoration fires are started by candles. Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn and make sure they cannot tip over.