By Jeff A. Hussey
Ohio State Fire Marshal
The holiday season is a wonderful time of year. It’s great to spend time with family, share gifts with our loved ones, and celebrate all we have to be thankful for. Unfortunately, those of us in the fire service know the holidays are also marred every year by tragic home fires. In celebrating the holidays, we often engage in behaviors and activities that add risk in our own homes. Here are a few common causes of holiday fires and some ways to avoid a tragedy in your home.
• Caring for your Christmas tree
Live Christmas trees can become a significant fire hazard if they are not properly watered. As soon as trees are cut, the base should be kept in water. Before bringing the tree indoors, make a fresh cut at the base and add water to the tree stand immediately, followed by daily watering. Trees with fresh cuts will continue to absorb water and remain green longer. Once a tree becomes dry and needles start to fall off, it should be removed from your home as soon as possible.
• Deck the halls safely
Holiday lighting should only be installed in accordance with the manufacturer instructions. Avoid using multi-outlet electrical cords and adapters, as they can overheat. Always use circuit breaker-protected power strips and do not connect more than three strands of lights together. LED lighting is a great option, since they produce very little heat.
• Candle care
Another common cause of fires this time of year involves candles. Candles should never be used around children or pets and should always be stored in safe holders. Candles have started many fires by contacting curtains, decorations and other combustibles.
• Home heating 101
While wood-burning fireplaces are extremely inviting, they must be used with extreme caution. Always burn clean, dry wood to reduce creosote buildup, and never burn wrapping paper or boxes in the fireplace. Lack of maintenance and the burning of paper can result in a chimney fire – which often can extend into hidden wall spaces and attics – so be sure to have your chimneys cleaned and inspected at least once a year.
Similar to candles, space heaters have also caused many home fires when tipped over or when coming into contact with curtains, furniture or other combustibles. When using space heaters, be sure to keep a 3-inch clear area away from anything that can burn and never use them in the presence of children and pets.
• Working smoke, carbon monoxide alarms save lives
Finally, please be sure to check your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Smoke alarms should be replaced after 10 years. The best replacements, however, are those with 10-year, sealed batteries. Carbon monoxide alarms should also be checked for functional batteries and be replaced every five to seven years as recommended by the manufacturer.
I sincerely hope you have a blessed holiday season, and please take these simple steps to make sure your family is safe.