Christmas trees, lights, decorations, extra cooking and visiting relatives can distract people from their normal routines and create opportunities for fires and injuries.
“It’s sad when someone thinks they are doing the right thing and it goes wrong,” said Pasco Fire Department public education specialist Ben Shearer. “The biggest thing we have issues with is how people decorate.”
Christmas decorations include the tree, outdoor lights, indoor decorations and candles.
Indoor decorations can be kept safe by remembering to place flammable materials away from heat sources, such as heat registers, wood stoves and candles.
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Trees should be green and retaining needles when they are bought, kept watered through the holiday and care taken when adding lights, Shearer said. He suggests checking lights carefully before applying them and to keep trees away from heat sources.
Outdoor lights can cause fires by shorts and generating heat near a flammable material. Leaves and pine needles can dry out and be blown against lights, and possibly ignite. Shearer said to make sure lights are rated for outdoor use and the cords are in good shape.
Indoor decorations can be kept safe by remembering to place flammable materials away from heat sources, such as heat registers, wood stoves and candles. Wrapping paper, pine cones, dry trees, flammable cloth, gauze and cards are examples of potential fire hazards.
The biggest thing we have issues with is how people decorate.
Ben Shearer, Pasco Fire Department public education specialist
“Cords can cause fires even if they are used properly,” Shearer said. “They generate heat.”
Coiled or bundled electrical cords increase the amount of heat generated and pose a danger near flammable materials. People often try to hide the cords from sight, sometimes pushing them up against something that could ignite.
Candles are fire. Knocked over, they can ignite a dry Christmas tree and turn it into a large fire in a living room within a minute. Shearer suggests using LED candles instead.
“We have a couple of candle fires a year, and that’s sad because it is where the presents usually are,” said Shearer.
A few years ago, a Pasco woman told the fire department that she left glass-enclosed candles on a window sill unattended for a minute — one fell and started a fire in her living room, Shearer said. The blaze destroyed her Christmas tree and gifts, and damaged her home.
We have a couple of candle fires a year and that’s sad, because it is where the presents usually are.
Pasco Fire Department public education specialist Ben Shearer
Unattended cooking is the leading cause of fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Family, friends and holiday activities can lead people to forgetting they have food on a stove.
“And then the smoke alarm goes off,” Shearer said. “It becomes a distraction when people are visiting … people forget things on the stove. We get a lot of distraction food fires.”
Paying attention is the best way to avoid a kitchen fire, from using loud timers to turning frying pan handles toward the back of the stove.
Outdoor lights can cause fires by shorts and generating heat near a flammable material.
Shearer urges people to stop and think about safety before people arrive for Christmas and before the decorations are put up.
For more information about fire safety during the holiday season, go to nfpa.org/holiday or call your local fire department.