'Tis the season for Christmas trees, holiday lights and other various decorations -- all of which are a big part of getting into the holiday spirit. But failure to take all the necessary safety precautions when you're setting up and tearing down such decorations can turn the holiday season into anything but "merry." The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) states that there's more than double the amount of open-flame fires on Christmas Day than on any other day of the year. Furthermore, the USFA states that property damage during a fire loss around the holidays is likely to be some 34% greater than an average fire.
In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), roughly 230 structure fires begin in the United States every year with Christmas trees, causing an estimated $17.3 million in property damage. And while you might think that the majority of these problems would occur as the tree is being set up or on display throughout the season, studies show that about 1/3 of Christmas tree fires actually occur in January, with tree disposal.
Christmas trees aren’t the only thing to be cautious with. Holiday lights are responsible for about 160 home fires – and $9 million worth of property damage – per year. Cooking is another leading cause of holiday fires, and candles are about four times more likely to lead to a fire during the holiday season than any other time of the year.
About 1/3 of all Christmas tree fires resulted from electrical malfunction, states the NFPA. About 20% of fires occurred because the tree was located too close to a heat source (an additional 9% were ignited by candles) and about 15% were started because lights were on line voltage.
- Natural vs. Artificial: Real Christmas trees are more likely to start a fire than artificial ones, especially when they've dried out. That's a big part of why it's so important to keep natural trees moist and the stand full of water, as the chances of unintentional fires decrease significantly when the tree isn't dried out. On the contrary, it takes only about 30 seconds for a dry tree to engulf a room in fire when ignited.
- Always look for a "fire resistant" label when purchasing an artificial tree. While it doesn't guarantee that the tree won't catch fire, the label indicates that it resists burning, thereby making it easier to extinguish if necessary.
- No matter whether it's real or artificial, always set up your tree away from heat sources, like fireplaces and radiators. Remember, roughly 20% of all home Christmas tree fires occur because a tree is too close to a heat source.
Electrical failures and malfunctions are responsible for most of the fires started by holiday lights (69%). That’s why it’s important to make sure that you only purchase lights – whether they’re for indoor or outdoor use – that have been tested for safety. Here’s a look at some more tips:
- Inspect the lights before you put them up. Look for broken bulbs, cracked sockets, bare or frayed wiring and loose connections. While some of these troubleshooting problems can be fixed others cannot. So if a strand of lights is too damaged to salvage, throw it away.
- Extension cords are a necessity around the holidays. But you should never plug more than three standard-sized sets of lights into one extension cord. For indoor lights, consider plugging them into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) for added safety.
- For outdoor lights, make sure that they’re securely fastened to trees, gutters and/or other parts of the home. This prevents the wind from whipping them and lights from breaking. Also, never staple lights to structures—use either insulated staples or roof clips.
- Never leave lights on unattended. Always turn them off when leave the house or go to bed for the night.
Follow these safety tips to ensure that you have a safe holiday season! If you have any fire damage in Columbus resulting from Christmas trees or lights and need fire cleanup, call PuroClean. We are the fire restoration company to call for your fire restoration needs any time of the year besides just the holidays.