Franklin, TN - Home fires are more prevalent this time of year than in any other season. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the number of home fires doubles in December, January and February.
“This is due in part to an increase in cooking and heating fires,” says Franklin Fire and Life Safety Educator Jamie Melton. “But holiday decorations also contribute to the increased winter fire risk.
Based on data from NFPA and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), an estimated 250 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 170 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year. Together, these fires resulted in 21 deaths and 43 injuries.
Melton recommends making time to maintain a fire-safe home this holiday season by following these simple tips:
Select a fresh tree – the needles should be green and hard to pull back from the branches. They should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Don’t place it in front of an exit way. In the event of a fire, a blocked exit way puts you and your family at risk. Don’t place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent, which will dry it out. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly.
Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory. Don’t Overload Electrical Outlets. Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch. Don’t leave holiday lights on unattended!
Consider using flameless candles, which look and smell like real candles. If you use traditional candles, keep them at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn - half of all candle fires start because candles are placed too close to things that can catch fire. Blow candles out when you leave the room or go to bed. Never leave a child or pet alone in a room with a burning candle.
Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater. Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional. Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
The simplest way to prevent cooking fires is to stay in the kitchen while you’re frying, grilling or broiling food. Most cooking fires involve the stovetop, so keep anything that can catch fire away from it, and turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even if it’s for a short period of time. If you’re simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.
Working smoke alarms save lives
Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. If possible, interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home so that when one sounds, they all sound. Test alarms at least monthly by pushing the test button and replace batteries in all smoke alarms at least once a year. If an alarm “chirps”, warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away. Replace all smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they are 10 years old or sooner if they do not respond properly. Know what to do when the smoke alarms sounds – have a home fire escape plan and practice it.