BOULDER, CO — Date — There are many causes for celebration during the winter holiday months, but it’s also the time of the year when the threat of home fires increases dramatically. Nearly one third of all residential fires occur during the winter, according to the National Fire Protection Association, resulting in billions of dollars in property damage, as well as thousands of injuries and deaths. Fires can originate from many sources: too many holiday lights plugged into an outlet, portable heating devices, or roaring fireplaces. However, there are precautions that homeowners can take to keep the home fires burning safely.
The use of alternative heating devices is a significant source of many winter fires. “Fire departments and organizations such as the American Red Cross are at their busiest during the winter,” said Nancy Delacroix of MetLife. “Alternative heating devices, such as a space heater or wood stove, can be attractive costsaving alternatives, but they increase the likelihood of a home fire occurring, if used improperly.”
Holiday candles are also one of the leading causes of these fires—in fact, the greatest number of home candle fires happen on Christmas Day. Many fires occur when holiday decorations, such as centerpieces, come into contact with a lit candle, which is why it’s important to consider fire safety when using candles as part of holiday decorating.
“The fact is, many fires are preventable, if the proper precautions are taken,” said Nancy Delacroix. “To help avoid a tragedy, it’s important to review the basics of fire safety. It only takes a few minutes and it could save a life.”
FIREPLACE AND WOOD-STOVE SAFETY TIPS
• Keep a tight-fitting screen on your fireplace and obtain a professional inspection annually before use. You should also have your chimney cleaned on a regular basis.
• If you have a wood-burning stove, make sure there is ample clearance between the stove and any combustible materials. Burn only dry, well-seasoned wood, and dispose of the ashes in a closed metal container outside the house. Do not burn trash in the stove — this can start a chimney fire. Never let a wood fire burn unattended or overnight.
• With any type of heater, such as an electric space heater or portable kerosene heater, use common sense. Always keep the heater away from flammables and — although it may be tempting, especially in snow-prone areas — never accelerate the drying of clothes by placing them on top of the heater. Think twice, and use a drying rack instead. Have your heater serviced per the manufacturer’s instructions.
HOLIDAY FIRE PREVENTION TIPS
• When it comes to seasonal decorations, there are many ways for your holidays to go “up in smoke” — literally. If you celebrate the season with a live Christmas tree, select one that is fresh and water it regularly. Keep it away from heat sources and exits. If you use an artificial tree, make sure it’s flame-resistant.
• Deep-frying turkey during the holidays is becoming an American tradition, but be warned: there is the risk of severe injury and property damage from using gas-fired turkey fryers. Fryers can easily tip over, spilling up to five gallons of hot oil, and if a partially frozen turkey is dunked into the fryer, the oil could spill over and cause an explosion. Units without automatic thermostat controls can heat the oil to the point of combustion.
• Never burn a discarded Christmas tree, wreath, or branches in your fireplace. A Christmas tree can be very oily and may damage your chimney. More important, dry trees burn hot and fast, and often release sparks. Just one spark could ignite a carpet or window coverings.
• With plenty of electric lights and decorations set to illuminate the holidays, it’s important to remember not to overload wall outlets and extension cords. Use a power strip where you can.
For a fun look at fire safety, and MetLife Auto & Home® offer kids a free coloring and activity book entitled “Learn About Fire Safety with the PEANUTS™ Gang,” which is available by calling (720) 389-6663 or visiting at 2975 VALMONT STE 210, BOULDER, CO.