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Christmas Tree with Decorations

Fire Safety Tips for the Holiday Season

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The holiday season is a time of festive lights, crackling blazes in hearths, busy kitchens, and electric heating. All of these can be possible fire hazards and in order to keep your days merry and bright, please follow these health and safety tips to avert this risk. While great fire restoration services are always available, prevention is the best action. By following these simple and easy tips you can prevent having to call on the services of a fire restoration company

Christmas Trees and Lights

Who doesn’t love a well-lit Christmas tree? Not to mention the lights we string across our roofs and elsewhere in our homes? The bright colors provoke warm and festive feelings, but if those lights aren’t installed and managed properly, they can lead to fires. Do the following to avoid accidents:

Inspect Lights Before You Hang Them 

Lights are often rolled up and left in attics, garages or basements until it’s time to bring them out at this time of the year. During this time as a result of rolling and unrolling or bundling them too much, they can often end up with frayed cords and exposed wiring. Before you hang up the lights or drape them over your tree, check the wires thoroughly to make sure they’re properly insulated.

Use a GFCI 

A ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI), is a type of wall outlet that is often installed as a precaution against accidents that might occur when water comes into contact with electricity. They monitor the current passing through them and automatically shut off if water enters the circuit. This not only reduces the chance of electric shocks, but also potential fire hazards.

Get the Freshest Tree You Can – If You’re Going for a Real Tree 

Fresh trees are greener and moister, and they will not lose many needles or be easy kindling like an older tree would.

Keep Your Tree Moist 

If you’ve decided to use a real tree, you need to remember that it can dry out after just a couple of days without water. Once it is dry, it becomes very easy for it to catch fire. And, once the tree is ablaze, the fire will very easily spread to surrounding drapes, furniture, and the like. A dry tree will also tend to lose needles quickly, and these can also become fire risks.

Use Fire-Resistant Fake Trees 

If you opt for a synthetic Christmas tree, find one that is labelled fire-resistant.

Be Careful Where You Set Up the Tree 

Keep trees away from radiators, fireplaces, and other heat sources.

Don’t Leave Lights and Electrical Decorations on Unattended 

If you’re leaving the house or going to bed, be sure to switch everything off.

Don’t Overload the Sockets 

This is a basic safety precaution at any time of the year, but it becomes a greater risk during the holidays, as lights and various other additional things are plugged into the sockets. If you’re using a lot of lights, be sure to spread them across several sockets.

Heaters

If you’re using electrical heaters, remember that they should only be used for limited periods of time, and always under supervision. Keep your heater away from the tree too, as a large number of holiday blazes are caused when Christmas trees catch fire from a nearby heat source.

Fireplaces

An essential companion to a beautifully decorated Christmas tree is a fire in the fireplace. Good fireplaces are built with safety in mind. But you have to look after them properly – together with its chimney. Many fires that spread from the fireplace occur as a result of poorly maintained chimneys. To avoid incidents, chimneys should be checked and cleaned annually. This is quite an involved job, so it’s best to get a professional chimney sweep to clean it properly for you. 

Aside from the annual inspection, you should also be careful to maintain the fireplace properly during your regular use of it. Make sure to keep it clear of ashes and other debris after each fire. Use logs that have been seasoned for a year or more to prevent flammable materials from collecting in the chimney. 

You should also learn the best methods of lighting fires. Use a top-down method, which burns hotter and cleaner and produces less smoke than other methods. Place the logs at the bottom, add some smaller logs crossways on top of these and then throw in some newspaper and some kindling. You should then be able to light the newspaper and let the fire burn naturally from there. 

Always keep the flue open when you light a fire and do not close it until the fire is completely burned out.

Fireworks

If you want to enjoy a firework display on New Year’s Eve, find a safe place to ignite them, away from trees and buildings. Keep everybody – especially children and pets – well back from the fireworks. Keep water or a fire extinguisher on hand in case anything should catch fire. You should avoid setting off fireworks if the area is especially dry, perhaps due to a shortage of rain.

When it comes to fireworks, the best course is really always to leave it to the experts.

Cooking and Baking

It’s the season for feasting, which means plenty of good food, such as turkey with all the trimmings, hams, cakes, you name it. This will require lots of activity in the kitchen and, as a result, increased possibilities of fire. Observe the same kitchen safety regimen you always follow, but be even more vigilant with all the increased activity. Clean up all grease spills immediately. If you cook with a gas stove, double-check that you have switched the gas off after cooking – and keep all flammable items away from the oven. It may also be worthwhile setting up a child-free zone of about three feet around the oven. Never leave anything you are cooking unattended, especially if you are frying, grilling or broiling food. 

Deep fat turkey fryers have become quite popular for the preparation of holiday feasts. They pose a very high risks, as they require a lot of oil, which can heat up to the point of catching fire. If you do use one, keep it outside at a safe distance from buildings and anything flammable. Never use it inside your garage and never overfill the fryer. Air-fryers (completely free of oil) are now available for cooking turkeys, and they are a much safer option.

Dryers

Fires caused by clothes dryers are prone to increase during the holiday season. Here are some dryer-specific tips:

  • Empty the Lint Screen 

Lint that gets left on the screen after thicker and newer fabrics are dried can lead to a major fire hazard. To avoid this, simply empty the screen out before or after every load.

  • Don’t Overload the Dryer 

Keep the loads small, especially when dealing with sweaters, coats, and blankets.

  • Never Leave the Dryer Running Unattended

Especially with many loads make sure to keep on eye on your dryer, making sure it doesn’t overheat.

  • Keep It from Overheating 

Go for air-dry or lower heat settings, especially with heavy loads.

General Warnings

  • Install Smoke Alarms 

If you haven’t already, invest in smoke alarms in each bedroom, hall, and on each level of the house. Make sure there is one in the room where you keep your Christmas tree.

  • Be Careful with Extension Cords 
  • Firstly, never use extension cords with heaters. 
  • Secondly, always check the cords before you use them. If they are flimsy or frayed, reinsulate them or get rid of them. 
  • Never run these cords under rugs. 
  • Remember that extension cords are temporary solutions – they are not meant to be used for long periods of time or as permanent fixtures.
  • Candles 

Candles are an important part of Christmas decorating. They help to provide a warm and festive ambiance. But they’re also fire hazards. Use candles carefully and safely. Never keep them lit when they are unattended. You might consider replacing your real candles with flameless, battery-operated LED ones.

  • Always Have a Fire Extinguisher on Hand 

You should not only have it on hand, but also remember to have it checked every year to ensure that it is working properly.

West Coast Fire & Water is a dedicated restoration and mitigation company serving Mendocino, Lake, Marin, and Sonoma Counties. We would prefer that you follow the above safety procedures and keep your home, business, and other locations fire-free this holiday. However, should something go wrong, leading to a need for fire restoration services, we are on call 24 hours a day to clean up and mitigate any resulting damage. Contact us for more information.

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