NFPA, CPSC Issue Holiday Fire Safety Reminders

According to the NFPA, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 800 home fires per year between 2012 and 2016 that started with decorations (excluding Christmas trees), and said fires caused an annual average of two civilian deaths, 34 civilian injuries, and $11 million in direct property damage.

The winter holiday season is underway, and while Christmas trees, candles, and twinkling lights are festive, they contribute to an increased number of home fires during December. The National Fire Protection Association and the Consumer Product Safety Commission have issued timely fire safety reminders to help protect yourself and your home during the festivities.

"Fire can quickly turn this festive time of year into a tragic one," said Lorraine Carli, vice president of NFPA's Outreach and Advocacy division. "Fortunately, when decorating your home and entertaining guests, following some simple safety precautions can go a long way toward enjoying a fire-safe holiday season."

According to the NFPA, Christmas tree fires are uncommon, but are much more likely to be deadly than most other kinds of fires—one of every 45 reported home Christmas tree fires results in a death, as opposed to an annual average of one death per 139 reported home fires. CPSC recommends the following tree safety tips:

  • Live Christmas trees should be checked for freshness: A fresh tree is green, and its needles are hard to pull from branches and don't break when bent between your fingers. Trees should be kept well-watered.
  • Purchase an artificial tree labeled "Fire Resistant." The label doesn't mean that the tree won't catch fire, but it is more resistant to catching fire.
  • Trees should be placed away from heat sources such as fireplaces, vents, and radiators.

December is the peak time of year for candle fires at home. In 2016, more than half (56 percent) of December home decoration fires were started by candles, as opposed to one-third (31 percent) during the rest of the year. CPSC recommends that all burning candles be kept within sight, on a stable, heat-resistant surface where kids and pets cannot knock them over. Candles should be kept from items that can catch fire and should be extinguished before you leave the room.

According to NFPA, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 800 home fires per year between 2012 and 2016 that started with decorations (excluding Christmas trees), and said fires caused an annual average of two civilian deaths, 34 civilian injuries, and $11 million in direct property damage. One-fifth of these home decoration fires occurred in December, the NPFA said.

CPSC recommends the following light decoration safety tips:

  • Only use lights tested for safety by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets. Do not use electric lights on a metallic tree.
  • Check each extension cord to make sure it is rated for the intended use and is in good condition. Do not use cords with cuts or signs of fraying.
  • Check outdoor lights for labels showing the lights have been certified for outdoor use, and only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected receptacle or a portable GFCI.

CPSC also reminds consumers not to burn wrapping paper in the fireplace, as wrappings can ignite suddenly and burn intensely, causing a flash fire. Consumers should have smoke alarms on every floor of their home and in every bedroom and should test them monthly to ensure they are working properly.

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